Fair or not, Jo Swinson has to upgrade her image if she wants to win this game

Boris Johnson isn’t wearing odd socks, has cut his hair and has given up booze to slim down. Jeremy Corbyn was pilloried for his tracksuit, and now he’s wearing a smart suit and new glasses. Yes, this might seem nit-picking, but personal packaging is essential

Janet Street-Porter
Friday 22 November 2019 18:00
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Jo Swinson confronted in Glasgow over Lib Dem austerity record

I voted for the Women’s Equality Party last time around, so why can’t I warm to Jo Swinson, who claims she could be our next prime minister? Sadly, Swinson has all the appeal of a hectoring headmistress about to issue extra detention, and this persona is not getting results – the Lib Dems have dropped eight points since the start of October, and new polling indicates the grim truth: the more the public sees Jo, the less we like her.

Swinson might be clever, impassioned and ambitious to the core, but in modern politics that’s not enough – I’ve come to the conclusion she needs a serious makeover. Yes, women shouldn’t be scrutinised more than men, but Jo is the face of her party, the woman on the leaflets, the face on the battle bus. She is the brand. Her most pressing task is to halt the Lib Dems’ current downward slide to stand any chance of holding the balance of power following the election.

Connecting with people who aren’t committed Lib Dem voters is a tough task, a large part of which is about presentation, and Jo Swinson is failing on so many levels. People want more than a message; they want to connect with a real person. Making a speech, Jo appears cold – her hairstyle seems severe, her make-up needs upgrading, her clothing needs to be softer and more flattering and, importantly, her vocal delivery has to be less bossy. This isn’t sexist or superficial: women need to use everything they can in order to achieve success in the male-dominated arena of politics. At the current rate, Naga Munchetty or Holly Willoughby have more chance of becoming prime minister than Swinson – both have won millions of fans with their welcoming personalities and people skills. Don’t denigrate those qualities – Jo must remember she’s is fighting to win our vote, not issuing parking tickets.

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