Liberal Democrats leader Jo Swinson has tried to defend her controversial voting record by by pointing out her early support for same-sex marriage.
Swinson was grilled by BBC journalist Andrew O’Neill, who is known for his combative questioning style. Boris Johnson is the only major party leader who has not agreed to be interviewed by him ahead of the general election.
“So you’re proposing to scrap the bedroom tax,” he began. “Who voted nine times to introduce the bedroom tax? That would be you.”
“Which I have previously said, and am happy to say again, was wrong,” Swinson replied. “I’m sorry about that, and it was one of the things we did get wrong.”
He then raised the benefits cap and the health reforms that allow the NHS to be put out to private tender – both of which the Lib Dems are now intending to remove, and which Swinson herself voted several times to introduce during the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition.
“Why should people believe you this time, when you’re responsible for these things?” he asked.
“Well, we’re setting out what our plan is for the future. We did spend five years in a coalition government where clearly we didn’t win every battle against the Conservatives,” she replied.
“I’m sorry about that. It was one of the things that we did get wrong”
Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson apologises for her party’s support for coalition benefit cuts, saying “we should have stopped it”
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Swinson then gives several examples of the ‘battles’ her party fought and won against the Conservatives, citing the introduction of same-sex marriage in 2013.
MPs voted to approve same-sex marriage by a majority of 400 to 175, and records show that the Conservatives actually relied more heavily on the support of Labour than the Lib Dems, with 217 Labour MPs backing marriage equality compared to the Lib Dems’ 44.
But Swinson’s excuses were irrelevant, as O’Neill pointed out that, far from ‘battling’ against the Conservatives, Swinson had specifically voted for the motions she is now trying to repeal.
“You say: ‘We made mistakes.’ But what about the people who were on the wrong end of those mistakes? Often the poorest and weakest in our society. 240,000 people had their benefits cut,” O’Neill said.
“Would you like to apologise to them today?”
To her credit, Swinson readily apologised for her questionable voting record. “Yes, I am sorry that I did that. It was not the right policy, and we should have stopped it,” she said.