Jo Swinson confronted protesters dressed as bees from climate group Extinction Rebellion (XR) after one glued themselves to her party’s electric-powered battle bus.
The Lib Dem leader was campaigning at a youth centre in London ahead of the December 12 general election when the climate change protestors targeted her party for the high-visibility stunt.
The Lib Dems’ policy is to achieve net zero carbon by 2045 while investing £100bn in projects to tackle the climate emergency.
But XR say all parties should cede to their “three demands”: a net zero carbon 2025 target, a citizens’ assembly on climate change, and to “tell the truth” about the scale of the environment crisis.
The climate change protesters, again dressed as bees, later invaded a Brexit Party constituency office before lying on the floor and buzzing in protest.
Approaching the clash with optimism, Swinson emerged from party minders to speak to campaigners, saying: “It’s lovely to meet you and I appreciate the campaigning work that you’re doing about the climate emergency, so thank you for coming and expressing very clearly your concerns about this today.”
One of the XR members replied: “I find ‘campaign work’ a little bit patronising, we’re an active rebellion against the government, which has failed to act on climate change and the climate breakdown in the face of evidence 30 years.”
They added: “So we’re not ‘campaigning’ – we’re an act of rebellion against the government.”
Swinson replied she had been to an Extinction Rebellion protest as she saw climate change as a “really important cause”, adding: “I think it’s absolutely true that we are facing a climate emergency. We are in that now, as you say, there is species extinction happening right now.”
Swinson said her party’s net zero carbon target was 2045 but that she would push to be “more ambitious” and it was “about how quickly we make the cuts now”.
Another protestor replied the parties were “not ambitious enough” and added: “We need to go beyond what is politically possible in order to actually give the children in this youth centre an actual future.”
Extinction Rebellion has also targeted the Labour Party and Boris Johnson’s Conservatives during the campaign.
People on social media were quick to make light of the incident.
The Brexit Party protest was labelled childish by Grimsby parliamentary candidate, Christopher Barker.
He wrote on Twitter: “There’s intelligent politics, with grown-ups, who debate real ideas to further our society.
“Then there’s the politics of the kindergarten. Usually silent — because they don’t have ideas.”