Local Lib Dems help Olney to victory
Local Liberal Democrats played a part in securing Sarah Olney’s shock by-election victory in Richmond Park and North Kingston. Nick Terdre reports.
Voters in the south-west London constituency deserted Zac Goldsmith, whom they had returned for the Tories in the general election last year, to record a winning 21.5% swing in favour of the Liberal Democrat candidate, Sarah Olney.
The result, which is seen as a protest against the prospect of a hard Brexit at the hands of Theresa May’s Tory government, followed a massive campaign by Lib Dems.
“I am very proud that local members have contributed to this incredible Liberal Democrat fightback,” chair of the Hastings and Rye Liberal Democrats, Nick Perry said. “It was fantastic to see Progressives from different political parties working together to promote an open, tolerant and united vision of our country.”
Mr Perry himself went to Richmond Park three times, he told HOT. “There has been a handful of us from Hastings and Rye going up and making calls on the phone. On polling day I am told there were 13,000 phone calls made by folk around the country. Quite an effort!”
Ms Olney, who has only become involved in politics in the past year, won with a majority of 1,872 on a reduced turnout of just under 50%, suggesting that a significant number of Tory voters stayed at home. “When I saw what happened at the general election last year, I felt I had to get involved,” she said.
Something going wrong
“I think a lot of people in [the Richmond Park] community had the same feeling after the referendum. [It] is full of people like me who felt something was going wrong, that the politics of anger and division were on the rise, that the liberal tolerant values we took for granted were under threat.
“We perceived the Ukip vision of Britain in the ascendancy, intolerant, backward-looking, divisive, just as we see it in America and across Europe.
“Well, today we have said no. We will defend the Britain we love. We will stand up for the open, tolerant, united Britain we believe in.”
The by-election was prompted by Mr Goldsmith’s decision to resign and stand as an independent in protest against the government’s decision to back a third runway at Heathrow airport. He may find some consolation in the fact that the Lib Dems have long been opposed to the proposed new runway.
The by-election victory could signal a turnaround in the Lib Dems’ fortunes, following their disastrous performance in the general election, when their presence in the House of Commons was reduced from fifty seven to eight MPs.
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