Jo Swinson (born 5 February 1980) is a Scottish Liberal Democrat politician and Member of Parliament (MP) for East Dunbartonshire constituency and the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Employment relations, consumer and postal affairs. She is also a junior Equalities Minister.
From 2007 to 2008 she was the Liberal Democrats spokeswoman (junior shadow minister) for Women and Equality and Department for Communities and Local Government, and was a Lib Dem spokeswoman for Foreign Affairs from 2008 to 2010, when the party entered government with the Conservatives. She was previously the Liberal Democrats' spokeswoman on Scotland and has chaired the Liberal Democrats' Campaign for Gender Balance since 2004. From 2005 to July 2009 she was the Baby of the House (youngest MP in the House of Commons).
Swinson was raised in East Dunbartonshire and was educated at Douglas Academy in Milngavie and the London School of Economics, where she studied Management gaining a Bachelor of Science in 2000. Swinson signed up as an active member of the Liberal Democrats at the age of seventeen.
After graduating with a first class degree, she moved to Yorkshire and worked for Ace Visual & Sound Systems in Thorne, South Yorkshire from August 2000, then as a marketing andpublic relations manager for radio station Viking FM from December 2000.
In 2001, at the age of 21, Swinson stood as a Liberal Democrat for the Hull East constituency in the UK General Election, gaining a 6% swing from John Prescott, deputy leader of the Labour Party. In 2003, she unsuccessfully contested the Strathkelvin and Bearsden seat in the Scottish Parliament, coming 3rd with 14% of the vote in the election.
Swinson won her seat in the House of Commons at the 2005 general election, beating John Lyons of Labour by 4,061 votes to take East Dunbartonshire, a suburban and semi-rural area to the north of Glasgow in Scotland. She was the youngest MP in the House of Commons when elected, (informally known as the "Baby of the House") replacing fellow Lib Dem MP Sarah Teather. She became the first ever Member of Parliament born in the 1980s. She remained the youngest MP until 2009, when Chloe Smith won a by-election to become the Conservative MP for Norwich North.
She was vocal in her opposition to the Iraq War and the Labour government's proposals for national identity cards. She supports measures both by individuals and government to tackleclimate change such as conserving energy in the home and the current Liberal Democrat policy of introducing green taxes while reducing income tax to offset the burden of this. She supports reducing the voting age to 16 as one way of engaging young people in politics. She believes more women should be involved in politics but that encouragement is better than coercion in achieving this. She opposes positive discrimination to address gender imbalance, and famously led the argument against positive discrimination to select her party's candidates at their national party conference in 2002, wearing a pink T-shirt inscribed with the slogan, "I am not a token woman".
Swinson has also called for a "wellbeing index" to be introduced, to be compared against GDP, and tabled an early day motion on the issue in 2008, gaining 50 signatures. She found support from MPs such as Vince Cable and Angela Eagle (the motion was backed by members from across the political spectrum). Swinson cited the fact that although standard of living had increased, peoples' level of wellbeing had been virtually static for some time, according to polls.
She feels strongly that new prisons ought not to be built and had campaigned vocally, but without success, against the rebuilding of a prison at Bishopbriggs which lies within her constituency. She had said that if a prison was built it must not be built cheaply, and that it must not be named after the town in which is to be sited. The campaign to give the prison its original name was ultimately successful, this replacement prison will retain its original name, Lowmoss Prison.
She is an active campaigner against packaging of chocolate Easter eggs, and each year since 2007 has seen her attack confectionery manufacturers for what she sees as excessive packaging of the seasonal children's treats, which generally involve a hollow egg covered in aluminium foil accompanied by a branded sweet, encased in plastic and cardboard to provide branding and protect the hollow and fragile chocolate foodstuff. She has named Guylian as the worst offender, followed by Lindt, Baileys and Cadbury.
A sufferer of a peanut allergy, her body went into anaphylactic shock after she accidentally ate a biscuit containing nuts at an event in Glasgow; Swinson had collapsed and was having difficulty breathing. Following an emergency injection of adrenaline, and an overnight stay in hospital, the emergency was over.
On 13 May 2011 Swinson married fellow Lib Dem MP Duncan Hames.