Zac Goldsmith loses to Lib Dems in ‘shockwave’ Richmond Park byelection
Sarah Olney overturns 23,000 majority of Tory MP who quit party over plans for Heathrow airport expansion
The Liberal Democrats have produced a stunning byelection victory to unseat Zac Goldsmith in Richmond Park, overturning a 23,000 majority to remove the former Conservative MP in a vote that became a de facto plebiscite on the governments Brexit plans.
Sarah Olney, the winning Lib Dem candidate, took a fraction under 50% of the entire vote to record a majority of 1,872. Large numbers of local Labour voters backed her, with the Labour candidate, Christian Wolmar, losing his deposit.
Olney, a local accountant who only became involved in politics a year ago, took to the stage at the announcement to say that voters had sent a shockwave through this Conservative Brexit government.
She added: And our message is clear: we do not want a hard Brexit. We do not want to pull out of the single market. We will not let intolerance, division and fear win.
Olney won 20,510 votes, up 30.4% on the partys 2015 result, against 18,638 for Goldsmith. She is the Lib Dems ninth MP in this parliament, and currently the only woman.
Goldsmith, who had held the seat since taking it from the Lib Dems in 2010, had resigned in protest at the governments decision to to back a third runway at Heathrow, instead standing as an independent in a byelection he argued should be seen as a gauge of local opinion on airport expansion.
But the Lib Dems based the debate around Brexit, arguing that one of the most strongly pro-remain constituencies in the country should have a say on being represented by an MP who supported leave, albeit quietly.
Olney insisted the impetus for this had come from voters. She told the Guardian: It wasnt a conscious choice in that respect it was us responding to what constituents were talking about. And weve always been a pro-European party. We were the united remain party.
Lib Dem leader Tim Farron said: This was a remarkable, come-from-nowhere upset that will terrify the Conservatives If this was a general election, this swing would mean the Conservatives would lose dozens of seats to the Liberal Democrats and their majority with it.