Incumbent Zac Goldsmith has lost the Richmond Park by-election to Sarah Olney of the Liberal Democrats in a major political upset.
The by-election, triggered by Goldsmith’s pledge to resign over the government’s decision to give a third runway at Heathrow the go-ahead, saw Olney win by 1,800 votes, overturning the 23,000 majority that Goldsmith had in last year’s General Election.
Whilst Goldsmith fought the by-election as an independent candidate, he would have largely backed the Conservative government, but this result means that the Tory Government’s slim majority in the House of Commons has got even slimmer.
The Conservatives and UKIP did not field a candidate in the by-election in an attempt to earn Goldsmith the win, whilst Labour’s Christian Wolmer lost his £500 deposit after picking up just 1,500 votes.
Richmond Park is a deeply pro-EU area, with a 70%-30% remain vote in the London borough. The Liberal Democrats’ pro-EU rhetoric is clearly one of the key factors behind Olney’s election.
On her victory, Olney 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.”
If Article 50 goes to a parliamentary vote, Olney plans to vote against triggering Britain’s exit process from the EU.
Olney’s election completes a remarkable rise for the former accountant who had never planned on becoming an MP.
She only joined the party following the Liberal Democrats’ humiliating performance in last year’s General Election, and she was relatively unknown after being nominated for this seat after Goldsmith’s resignation. Now she becomes the Liberal’s only female MP, joining her 8 male counterparts in Westminster.
However, for Zac Goldsmith, this result rounds off what has been an awful year politically. After going into the year favourite to win this summer’s Mayoral Election, he ended up losing by a distance to Labour’s Sadiq Khan after running what was described by critics as a ‘racist campaign’. And now, following the Government’s decision to press ahead with the Heathrow expansion, his resignation and subsequent defeat leave his political career in tatters.