How ‘liberal’ are the Lib Dems now: Jo Swinson and Boris Johnson’s past votes compared

5 mins read

As the political landscape remains trapped in Brexit discourse, the recent elections of Boris Johnson as Prime Minister and Jo Swinson as the Liberal Democrat Leader may appear as polar opposites.

Championing the hard Brexiteers is Johnson, a lifelong euro-skeptic who aims to deliver the result of the referendum at any cost. As a remainer, through and through, Swinson pledges she would do ‘whatever it takes’ to stop Brexit. However, Jo served as an MP during the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition of 2010 and has since backed the building of a Margaret Thatcher statue.

This all begs the question of how different her values really are from the new Prime Minister. Thanks to TheyWorkForYou.com, a website which takes open data from UK Parliament, every MP’s voting record is free-to-view for the general public. We know where they stand on the European Union – but do they have any common ground?

Welfare and Taxation

Both have always voted in favour of cutting on welfare benefits. Johnson has voted to cut welfare benefits a total of 19 times and Swinson has voted 26 times. They have also consistently voted against paying higher benefits over longer periods for those unable to work due an illness or disability.

Both have consistently voted against increasing the tax rate applied to an income over £150,000 and in favour of raising the threshold at which people pay income tax. They have also consistently voted in favour of reducing the rate of corporation tax and against the tax on banker’s bonuses.

Both records show politicians who are like minded in their protection of the wealthy at the expense of our most vulnerable citizens.


In the run up to 2010 elections, the Liberal Democrats famously pledged to abolish tuition fees in their manifesto. However, Swinson has consistently voted in favour of increasing tuition fees. She voted to raise England’s undergraduate fee to £9000 per annum in 2010. In 2011, she voted to scrap maintenance allowances for 16-19 year olds in further education. Contrastingly, Johnson voted against the increase of of tuition fees during his early career in 2004. However, he has since refused to oppose any further increases.

Both have almost always voted in favour of academy schools. In 2010, Swinson voted to enable schools to gain academic status and financial independence from local authority control. In 2016, Johnson voted in favour of turning all primary and secondary schools into academies.

Constitutional Reform and Scottish Government

Both voted against a more proportional voting system for electing MP’s. The pair have also voted in favour of reducing the central government funding of local governments. This reduces the spending power councils have on their constituencies, limiting the ability of addressing community specific issues and local funding across the country.

Both generally voted against transferring more powers to Scottish Parliament, retaining the majority of political power over Scotland for Westminster.

Environmental Issues

Fracking is the practice of extracting fossil fuels from shale rock, which produces large amounts of methane – a super pollutant. It is 86 times more disruptive to our climate than carbon dioxide. Swinson voted against greater regulation of hydraulic fracking whilst Johnson actually voted for greater regulation which, in this case, makes him the more ecologically minded of the two.

However, both Johnson and Swinson have voted against allowing carbon dioxide emissions limits to be set in respect to existing power stations. Swinson has also voted in favour of selling England’s state owned forests during Boris’ time as mayor.


The Liberal Democrats have always been a party for those who find themselves in the middle ground. Too moderate for Labour or Greens, and too liberal for Conservatives or UKIP. Somewhere in that broad centrist spectrum, there’s a compromise between left and right wing politics. But when faced with the anti-welfare, anti-environmental, pro-corporate and pro-tuition fee record, its hard to distinguish her from that of that of a Tory remainer. If the only major distinction between Boris and Jo is Brexit, how much of an opposition can she really be?

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