Wednesday, 30 November 2016
Decision Time: Richmond Park
The by election was triggered, after Zac Goldsmith, who represented Richmond Park as a Conservative MP resigned his seat, after the government's decision to back a third runway at Heathrow Airport, which would have a significant impact on Richmond, as the constituency is located under one of Heathrow's main flight paths.
At the General Election in May 2015, Goldsmith won the seat with a sizeable majority of 23,000 votes, and on Thursday he will be running as an Independent candidate. Goldsmith has said he wants the by election to act as a referendum on Heathrow in order to send a message to the government.
The Liberal Democrats got 11,389 votes in 2015, but with their candidate Sarah Olney, the party, led by Tim Farron, are hoping to get another MP returned to Parliament, which would bring the number of Lib Dem MP's to nine.
The Lib Dems suffered a loss of 49 seats at the general election last year, which meant they were demoted to the fourth largest party in Parliament behind the SNP.
At the EU Referendum in June the borough of Richmond voted heavily to remain in the European Union, with 69% voting to remain, compared to 31% of voters who voted to leave. Liberal Democrats believe this gives them a distinct advantage over Goldsmith, in that they can oppose Heathrow, but also be the party who oppose Brexit, whereas Goldsmith campaigned to leave the EU.
Since the referendum result Lib Dem Leader Tim Farron has said many times, he wants his party to be the one standing up for the 48% of the country who voted remain. They're also the only party calling for a 2nd referendum on the terms of Brexit, arguing the country voted leave based on a number of lies peddled by the leave campaign. Both Olney and the Labour candidate Christian Wolmar have said they would vote against Brexit in Parliament if they were to be elected.
Campaigning in Richmond Former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg commented on opposing Brexit in Parliament saying "I want to leave in a way that is least damaging to future generations".
The basic principle of this pledge, is that yes, the majority of people who voted, voted to leave the EU, but what is being argued is that people didn't realise the implications that such a result would truly have on the country. I have certainly spoken to a number of people who voted leave who say they're are regretting their decision. I truly think if the referendum was held again tomorrow, the remain campaign would win by a sizeable margin.
This is where I believe Goldsmith's down fall will be in winning over Richmond Park, yes he's against Heathrow, but this by-election is about a lot more than that.
The Conservatives have decided not to stand another candidate, meanwhile there were initial calls for Labour to stand aside to give the Liberal Democrats more of a chance at defeating Zac Goldsmith, calls which were dismissed by the party.
Meanwhile Green Party MP and co-leader Caroline Lucas has endorsed Sarah Olney rather than standing a candidate, much to the displeasure of some Green Party members.
The Lib Dems have thrown everything at the campaign effort in Richmond, with countless supporters canvassing the streets and the likes of Nick Clegg, Tim Farron and former Lib Dem Business Secretary Vince Cable campaigning.
The vote is tomorrow. The result is expected in the early hours of Friday morning.
Full list of candidates:
Independent - Zac Goldsmith
Monster Raving Loony - Howling Laud Hope
One Love - Maharaja Jammu and Kashmir
Liberal Democrat - Sarah Olney
No label - David Powell
Christian Peoples - Dominic Francis Stockford
Independent - Fiona Syms
Labour - Christian Wolmar