Richmond by-election sees Lib Dems cash in on unhappy Remain voters

A surprising by-election victory for the Liberal Democrats last Friday confirmed Sarah Olney as the MP for Richmond Park and North Kingston.

Olney defeated the returning independent candidate Zac Goldsmith by 1,872 votes despite the polls suggesting Goldsmith was ahead late into Thursday night.

Goldsmith, who resigned as a Conservative MP in October in protest at the government’s decision to build a third runway at Heathrow, stood as an independent candidate. A Brexiteer, he hoped to replicate his emphatic victory in 2015, when he beat the Liberal Democrat’s Robin Meltzer by 34,404 votes to  11,389.

But Olney drove an anti-Brexit campaign aimed at the roughly 72% of constituents who voted to remain in the EU, making it clear that she wants the June 23rd referendum overturned.

Liberal Democrat spokesperson Jasper Gerard said:”We had over 50,000 conversations with local people having knocked on 150,000 doors, and we knew just how unhappy people were about the divisive Conservative Brexit government. So as the campaign developed and we spoke to more people we realised we really could pull off an historic victory.

“As for Sarah’s intentions, she will continue to campaign against a disastrous hard Brexit, for which she now has a strong personal mandate. She will also fight Heathrow expansion and the Conservative run-down of NHS services.”

This result has compounded what has been a bad year for Goldsmith, who lost the London mayoral election in May. His tactics in the mayoral campaign, in which he attempted to link his rival Sadiq Khan to extremism, may also have helped Olney overturn his  23,000 vote majority in the space of a year and a half.

The Kingston Courier spoke to some residents of Richmond and North Kingston who expressed the importance of the EU referendum in helping them decide who to vote for.

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