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#WolmarforRichmond: Liberal Democrats are no champions of the anti-Tory vote

Christian Wolmar

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The LibDems are a very confused bunch. They bombard my Twitter feed with demands that I should stand down, something that is completely ridiculous since I couldn’t legally even if I wanted to, which I certainly do not.

If anything, watching their complete inability to put together a coherent campaign, given the inexperience of their candidate and her unfortunate blogs, has strengthened my view that it would have been crazy for Labour to leave the anti-Tory, anti-Brexit cause in her hands.

Now, just to add to their incoherence, I have been told from two sources that the LibDems are delighted that I am standing. Sarah Olney told Dave Hill of the Guardian that if we had not stood, the LibDems would be tainted by the association with Jeremy Corbyn and that would have damaged their cause.

I was rather incredulous that this was being put forward as a serious argument until the next day I bumped into the former leader of the local LibDems who proceeded to set out the same notion. ‘We are really pleased that you are standing’, he said to me in all seriousness. ‘So am I’, I replied.

The implication of this is that the LibDems are not interested in our votes. One could ask why they were so delighted that other parties withdrew from the election, including the Greens who are also in disarray as many of their members are furious that they are being asked to support the LibDems rather than Labour.

All in all, this shows the confusion over the idea of a Progressive Alliance. Encompassing views that would stretch from the Greens, taking in Labour and the Lib Dems, would undoubtedly result in splits and divisions. The memory of the Lib Dems in coalition with the Tories, pushing through policies such as the Bedroom Tax and cuts in welfare payments to people with disabilities, is still far too recent to consider such a plan.

All this and more will be debated in the hustings on Tuesday, 19.30 at Duke Street Church in Richmond to hear the candidates set out their stall and answer questions. It should be a good old fashioned Question Time style debate.

Christian Wolmar

Christian Wolmar is a transport journalist and the Labour Party candidate in the Richmond Park by-election.

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#RichmondPark

Lib Dems pull off shock victory in Richmond Park by-election as Zac is thrown out

James Giles

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A ‘shockwave to Downing Street’ has, last night, been pulled off by the Liberal Democrats, with Sarah Olney defeating Zac Goldsmith in the Richmond Park by-election.

Lib Dem challenger Ms Olney overturned Mr Goldsmith’s 23,015 majority to win by 1,872 votes. The result saw Ms Olney poll 20,510 votes to Mr Goldsmith’s 18,638, on a turnout of 41,367, or 53.6 per cent. The 21.74 per cent swing to the Lib Dems from Mr Goldsmith topped the 19.3 per cent swing the Lib Dems achieved from the Tories in the Witney by-election.

A Green Party spokesperson said: “The Green Party’s decision to stand down and the huge drop in the Labour Party vote show that people will vote tactically. It proves that there is a huge appetite and a need for proportional representation so that people can express a real preference at elections. In Sarah Olney, we now have an MP who will push for the electoral reform that we so urgently need. We look forward to working with the Liberal Democrats, Women’s Equality Party and the Labour Party in a Progressive Alliance for the 2018 local elections and the next General Election.”

 

Ms Olney said the shock victory was a rejection of the “Ukip vision” of Britain, and the politics of “anger and division”.

In her victory speech, she said: “The people of Richmond Park and North Kingston have sent a shockwave through this Conservative Brexit government, and our message is clear: we do not want a hard Brexit. We do not want to be pulled out of the single market, and we will not let intolerance, division and fear win.”

In a brief acknowledgement of the result, a clearly downcast Mr Goldsmith said: “This by-election that we have just had was not a political calculation, it was a promise that I made and it was a promise that I kept.”

Labour’s Christian Wolmar lost his deposit as he trailed a distant third with 1,515 votes, losing 8% of the Labour vote compared to 2015.

A Conservative Party spokesman said the result would make no difference to Brexit plans, stating: “This result doesn’t change anything. The Government remains committed to leaving the European Union and triggering Article 50 by the end of March next year. Commiserations to Zac Goldsmith on his defeat. We are sorry that he is no longer in the House of Commons.”

Lib Dem leader Tim Farron said: “The message is clear: The Liberal Democrats are back and we are carrying the torch for all of those who want a real opposition to this Conservative Brexit government.

“This was a remarkable, come-from-nowhere upset that will terrify the Conservatives. A year and a half ago, their man won by nearly 40% and had a majority of more than 20,000. In one fell swoop we have wiped that out completely.

“If this was a general election, this swing would mean the Conservatives would lose dozens of seats to the Liberal Democrats – and their majority with it.

Mr Wolmar said voters had disliked Mr Goldsmith’s “ghastly, disgusting” bid to be London Mayor in which Labour accused him of running a racist campaign against Sadiq Khan.

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