Jo Swinson speaks at the Liberal Democrat conference in Brighton in 2012. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Exclusive: Jo Swinson tipped to enter cabinet in Lib Dem reshuffle

Business minister, who recently returned from maternity leave, would replace Ed Davey. 

More than four years after they first entered government, the Lib Dems have still not had a single female cabinet minister. For many in the party, already dismayed by the Rennard affair, it has long been a point of shame.

But the upcoming cabinet reshuffle, expected early next week, offers a chance to finally change this. A senior party source suggests that Jo Swinson is line to replace Ed Davey, the Energy Secretary, in the party's top team. Swinson, who recently returned from maternity leave (she is married to fellow Lib Dem MP Duncan Hames), has long been regarded as the strongest female candidate to enter the cabinet. She is a Clegg loyalist, a reliable media performer, and has impressed during her time as a business minister. Her current post would likely be filled by Jenny Willott, who covered for Swinson while she was on leave. If she does enter the cabinet, Swinson would be the youngest-ever female cabinet minister and the first cabinet minister born in the 1980s. 

The switch would be a logical one, but it would dismay Davey, who replaced Chris Huhne as Energy Secretary in 2012, and has long been regarded by MPs as positioning himself for a future leadership bid. 

No other cabinet-level changes are expected on the Lib Dem side. Clegg confirmed at the weekend that Vince Cable would remain Business Secretary until the election, Alistair Carmichael will remain as Scottish Secretary in advance of the independence referendum, and Danny Alexander will remain Chief Secretary to the Treasury ahead of his likely confirmation as the party's chief economic spokesman for the election (replacing Cable in that role). 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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For the first time in my life I have a sworn enemy – and I don’t even know her name

The cyclist, though, was enraged. “THAT’S CLEVER, ISN’T IT?” she yelled. “WALKING IN THE ROAD!”

Last month, I made an enemy. I do not say this lightly, and I certainly don’t say it with pride, as a more aggressive male might. Throughout my life I have avoided confrontation with a scrupulousness that an unkind observer would call out-and-out cowardice. A waiter could bring the wrong order, cold and crawling with maggots, and in response to “How is everything?” I’d still manage a grin and a “lovely, thanks”.

On the Underground, I’m so wary of being a bad citizen that I often give up my seat to people who aren’t pregnant, aren’t significantly older than me, and in some cases are far better equipped to stand than I am. If there’s one thing I am not, it’s any sort of provocateur. And yet now this: a feud.

And I don’t even know my enemy’s name.

She was on a bike when I accidentally entered her life. I was pushing a buggy and I wandered – rashly, in her view – into her path. There’s little doubt that I was to blame: walking on the road while in charge of a minor is not something encouraged by the Highway Code. In my defence, it was a quiet, suburban street; the cyclist was the only vehicle of any kind; and I was half a street’s length away from physically colliding with her. It was the misjudgment of a sleep-deprived parent rather than an act of malice.

The cyclist, though, was enraged. “THAT’S CLEVER, ISN’T IT?” she yelled. “WALKING IN THE ROAD!”

I was stung by what someone on The Apprentice might refer to as her negative feedback, and walked on with a redoubled sense of the parental inadequacy that is my default state even at the best of times.

A sad little incident, but a one-off, you would think. Only a week later, though, I was walking in a different part of town, this time without the toddler and engrossed in my phone. Again, I accept my culpability in crossing the road without paying due attention; again, I have to point out that it was only a “close shave” in the sense that meteorites are sometimes reported to have “narrowly missed crashing into the Earth” by 50,000 miles. It might have merited, at worst, a reproving ting of the bell. Instead came a familiar voice. “IT’S YOU AGAIN!” she yelled, wrathfully.

This time the shock brought a retort out of me, probably the harshest thing I have ever shouted at a stranger: “WHY ARE YOU SO UNPLEASANT?”

None of this is X-rated stuff, but it adds up to what I can only call a vendetta – something I never expected to pick up on the way to Waitrose. So I am writing this, as much as anything, in the spirit of rapprochement. I really believe that our third meeting, whenever it comes, can be a much happier affair. People can change. Who knows: maybe I’ll even be walking on the pavement

Mark Watson is a stand-up comedian and novelist. His most recent book, Crap at the Environment, follows his own efforts to halve his carbon footprint over one year.

This article first appeared in the 20 October 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Brothers in blood