After Sarah Olney’s surprise victory over the much-better known Zac Goldsmith, one question still remains. Who exactly is Sarah Olney?
A relative unknown in political circles, the former accountant only joined the Liberal Democrats after their trouncing in last year’s General Election.
For Olney, who has campaigned in the borough for the last 20 years, “sitting on the sofa shouting at the telly wasn’t enough”.
“A year and a half ago I wasn’t involved in politics, I wasn’t a member of a political party, I had never been involved in a political campaign, I had never thought about being a politician.
“But I knew I was a Liberal.”
An English Literature graduate of Kings College London, Ms Olney is a staunch believer in the European Union (Goldsmith was a leave campaigner). She has promised to vote to block Article 50 if it goes to a parliamentary vote and, much like Goldsmith, she opposes the expansion of Heathrow. She also plans to pressurise the government to guarantee EU citizens the right to remain in the UK post-Brexit as well as campaigning for an improvement in Richmond’s air quality.
As Olney prepares to take her seat in the House of Commons for the first time, great challenges still lie ahead for the Liberal Democrats. Olney will be the Lib Dems’ only female MP after the party’s annihilation in the General Election last year. She will join her 8 male colleagues in the chamber.
What this result shows is that voters are still willing to plump for the Lib Dems despite their performance last year. They are now being billed as the pro-EU party, and if they play on that in 2020, they could steal a large number of seats from disgruntled Conservative and Liberal supporters.