Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson loses seat: What it means for LGBT rights

Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson has lost her seat in Parliament.

Swinson, who only became leader of the liberal anti-Brexit party in July, was narrowly ousted as MP for Dunbartonshire East by the Scottish National Party.

The Lib Dem leader received 19,523 votes, behind the SNP’s Amy Callaghan on 19,672 – falling victim to an SNP surge in Scotland as the Liberal Democrats struggled to make gains nationally.

Jo Swinson had faced criticism from LGBT+ Liberal Democrats

Swinson had put forward a radical pro-LGBT plan as part of her manifesto, but had also faced criticism from within the party over her welcoming of defecting anti-LGBT Conservatives.

Two leaders of the LGBT+ Liberal Democrats resigned in September after accusing the leader of ignoring their concerns over the admission of Dr Phillip Lee, who abstained on equal marriage and pushed to ban HIV-positive immigrants from entering the country.

Jo Swinson

Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson speaks at the launch of the party’s general election campaign on November 5, 2019. (Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)

Days before the vote, Swinson distanced herself from Lee’s beliefs about transgender people, after he suggested to Mumsnet that trans women in prison should be held in segregated facilities.

Swinson told PinkNews that she doesn’t agree with the comments, but added: “People may join us from different places, but they join us and everything that we stand for together.”

Lib Dem leader was a strong supporter of transgender rights

The party’s manifesto had pledged to reform the Gender Recognition Act to make it easier for trans people to change their legal gender, while introducing recognition of non-binary people on passports.

Speaking to PinkNews, Swinson had said she would be happy to share spaces with trans women, explaining: “I know this is my privilege talking, but I’m completely baffled and so sad that these questions are still being asked in 2019 as if there is any reason to say ‘no’. Yes, of course I feel safe sharing spaces with other women, whether they are cis or trans.”

It is unclear if Swinson will remain leader outside Parliament, or if she will resign.

The party’s leader at the 2017 election, Tim Farron, had faced scrutiny over his beliefs on LGBT+ issues.

Farron, a devout Christian, had repeatedly ducked questions on the campaign trail over whether he believes that gay sex is a sin.

He later admitted he “misled” people about his views, saying: “I found myself in a situation, partly because of events beyond my control and partly because of things that were my fault, where I either had to be compromising my faith and say things that were not true – or be true to my faith, and be in a situation where I sucked all of the attention away from our main message.”