Scotland’s youngest MP undaunted by Westminster

From the Herald

THERE are times, even in politics, when youth has distinct advantages – and this is one of those times.

Two hours’ sleep, a touch of concealer beneath the eyes, and Jo Swinson, Scotland’s youngest MP, seems ready to take on the world.

It is difficult to tell that she has just ended a long and difficult campaign for the Liberal Democrats in East Dunbartonshire as she talks passionately about the issues she cares about: pensions, health care, the scrapping of the council tax.

And while she might, very occasionally, lose her train of thought, that can be forgiven in a 25-year-old who has just won herself a seat in the House of Commons. She is thought to be the youngest in the UK, taking on the mantle of her boss Charles Kennedy who was 23 when he entered Westminster in 1983.

Her young age gives her an admirable energy after a long and exciting election night. However, it was not always an advantage on the campaign trail. Her opponents repeatedly emphasised her relative inexperience, and not always in the kindest of ways.

“I was told that one of the other candidates had said I was just a Stepford Wife with nothing between the ears and there’s me with a first from London School of Economics.

“That sort of personal stuff can be quite hard but you just have to let it wash over you. I don’t think that kind of campaigning works. It didn’t work here.”

Certainly she did not enjoy the personal attacks, but it is easy to believe that she did not let them dampen her enthusiasm for politics.

Ms Swinson has a strength of character that belies her age. She clearly feels that she is more than capable of doing the job and, when talking about politics, it is difficult to believe that she was not yet born when Margaret Thatcher became prime minister.

This self-assurance is partly as a result of her experience in business. She is used to being a bright young thing, having held a top managerial position at Viking Radio at the age of 21, the same time she fought for her first seat in Hull East.

Her confidence is quite intimidating, so it comes as something of a relief when she reveals that she occasionally indulge in the activities of a normal 25-year-old.

“Politics is a vocation, it is not a nine-to-five job,” she says. “But at the same time I think it is important to make time for other things, so one of the things I did was start learning salsa dancing last December.

“It only takes a couple of hours out of my schedule and I really enjoy it. I will have to see if there is a class in London that I can do.”

One advantage of the amount of time she will be spending in Westminster is that she will be able to catch up with friends she met at university who are still living in London.

She may even, she reveals, be tempted to go out clubbing with them.

“Oh, I would not rule it out. I like dancing and music like any other 25-year-old.

“I just can’t go out every Friday and Saturday night.”

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