LibDem victory in Richmond by-election: more significant than the Brexiters will admit

As a Liberal Democrat who went down to Richmond Park and North Kingston on a number of occasions to help Sarah Olney’s campaign to unseat Zac Goldsmith, I am of course delighted that she became the constituency’s new MP on Thursday. 

First is first, kudos to the Greens and the Women's Equality Party for not standing candidates and for supporting the LibDem campaign. Also a big thank you to all the non-partisan pro-European activists who came to Richmond to help. 

The idea that this was merely a strong Remain voting constituency having a chance to reiterate their 23 June vote is a simplistic and somewhat lazy interpretation.

Britain’s relationship with the EU wasn’t the only issue the LibDem campaign highlighted. The Libdem very long term (over 20 years) opposition to a third runway at Heathrow airport and our criticism of Tory underfunding of the NHS also featured heavily.

And while the LibDem campaign deliberately chose not to mention it at all, Mr Goldsmith’s horrid divisive London mayoral campaign against Sadiq Khan didn’t do him any favours. Some voters did raise it on the doorstep and it was never in a positive light.

I would imagine that the nasty anti-foreigner rhetoric coming out of the Tory party recently e.g. naming and shaming companies that employ non Brits etc will have been similarly received in Richmond as Mr Goldsmith’s mayoral campaign. Perhaps the UKIP-isation of the Tory party will lose more moderate Tory voters than it will gain rabid Brexiters back from UKIP? And you can guess where I think those moderate Tory voters will head. 

Even on the issue of Brexit, it isn’t as clear cut as the anti-Europeans would have you believe. Liberal Democrat canvassing shows that some Tory Leave supporters voted for Sarah Olney on Thursday. If you live in a very pro-Remain area like Richmond and you voted Leave, then you must have been pretty convinced about it. Yet less than 6 months later, some of those people decided to vote for an unashamedly pro-European Liberal Democrat?

The Brexit tide is turning, albeit very slowly....

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