JO Swinson has been getting tough. It’s crunch time in the election campaign, so no more Mrs Nice Jo! The gloves are off!

Or rather, the boxing gloves were on as the LibDem leader’s election campaign tour took her to a gym in London this week as a deselection storm raged.

The punchy photo op was guaranteed to get the face of “Britain’s next Prime Minister” into the papers, but unfortunately the snaps accompanied a raft of headlines suggesting she was losing control of her party.

The self-styled “girly swot” might want voters to think she’s striking a blow for feminism, but it increasingly seems like the only female person she really cares about is herself. Why else lobby for her own inclusion in TV debates, while crying wolf about sexism, but not make a case that Nicola Sturgeon, the leader of the third-largest party in the UK by both representation and membership, should be in the line-up too? It’s enough to make you wonder if a young Jo skived off some women’s studies classes.

The National: 99% of people believe Jo Swinson will be PM in another fake statistic 99% of people believe Jo Swinson will be PM in another fake statistic

To be fair, in many other areas of the curriculum she’s been excelling of late, such as International Relations, Creative Writing and Drama. Little wonder she’s peeved to be excluded from the ITV debate next Tuesday – this is the gig she’s been preparing for her whole life.

Here is Swinson’s big moment, her chance to shine. This one televised debate is likely the only thing standing between the LibDems winning a handful of Remain-voting constituencies and them romping to a stunning overall victory, picking up an additional 306 additional MPs, forming a majority government and cancelling Brexit.

Clearly, all Swinson needs to do is deliver a few well-timed zingers on primetime TV, drop the mic, and proceed to the nearest branch of Marks and Spencer to start picking out curtains for Downing Street.

Unless – surely not – but unless she gets herself onto the telly only to discover that repeating “Stop Brexit. Build a brighter future” ad nauseum doesn’t quite cut the mustard, because people want to know her party stands for, rather than just what they are against.

It’s easy to see why Swinson is confident of a strong performance. After all, when she was grilled on Sky News about a wildly misleading bar graph on a LibDem election leaflet she simply brazened it out, explaining that “politics has changed significantly” and the small print explaining the percentages was there for all to read, meaning there was absolutely no room for confusion about what the graph showed.

The National: The LibDem leader openly permits foul statistics on their campaign materialThe LibDem leader openly permits foul statistics on their campaign material

Sure, the leaflet made it look like there would be a two-horse race between the Tories and LibDems when in fact the latter polled only 8% last time round, but the basic principles of maths have changed significantly since then. And this kind of shameless skullduggery is not in any way comparable to the promise of £350 million a week for the NHS after Brexit, because Vote Leave didn’t write “We’re lying, suckers!” in tiny letters underneath.

I’ve carried out some research of my own and discovered there’s a 100% chance Swinson will tell porkies if asked about her party’s post-election red lines (Small print: statistic generated from a survey of National staff, who were asked: “They’re not called the FibDems for nothing, am I right?!?”). Further polling suggests 99% of voters still hold a grudge against the party for the compromises they made as part of the 2010 Con/Dem coalition (Small print: statistic generated from a survey of 200 DIY store customers who were asked whether they would choose LibDem orange for their living room walls).

No doubt Swinson has countless answers prepared in the hope ITV are strong-armed into giving her a shot at small-screen glory, but will anyone grill her about the specific challenges of being an EVEL Prime Minister? I’m not suggesting Swinson is evil – that’s for those who’ve scrutinised her voting record to decide for themselves – but she is standing for election in East Dunbartonshrie, or East Bumfartonshire, or somewhere like that – somewhere in Scotland, anyway. Which might pose a wee bit of a problem.

To judge by her battle bus you would think she was auditioning for the role of Mistress of the Universe, but in fact if she is re-elected she will, along with all the other Scottish MPs, be somewhat restricted in terms of influence. She surely remembers the introduction of English Voters for English Laws, given that it happened when she was in government, yet she seems to believe she can still be PM despite being unable to vote on England-only laws in areas such as health, education and justice.

Perhaps she should take a lesson in pragmatism from Tim Walker, who this week deselected himself as LibDem candidate for Canterbury. “Politics does not always have to be grubby and small-minded,” he said, encouraging supporters to back the Remain-supporting Labour candidate to keep out a Brexit-mad Tory. “Sometimes it’s possible to acknowledge that what’s at stake is more important than party politics – and personal ambition – and we can do what’s right.”

Refreshing words in these turbulent times, when it’s all too easy to become cynical about the motives of those involved in politics. Naturally the response from LibDem HQ was to threaten Walker with disciplinary action. Some things, it seems, have not changed.