‘It was a promise I made and it was a promise I kept’: Zac Goldsmith loses Richmond Park by-election

Zac Goldsmith suffered a second political defeat this winter losing his parliamentary seat to the Liberal Democrat’s Sarah Olney in the Richmond Park by-election this morning.

Mr Goldsmith looked visibly upset as the result was read out by Richmond Mayor David Linnette with the Independent candidate recieving 18,638 votes against Mrs Olney’s 20,510 – in a low 53.6% turnout.

In a brief concession speech Mr Goldsmith congratulated Mrs Olney on her victory, but after the Heathrow expansion decision went against him in October, his promise to resign and re-run had backfired.

Mr Goldsmith said: “This by-election we’ve just had was not a political calculation, it was a promise I made and it was a promise that I kept.

“It has been a huge, huge privilege to serve and represent this community over the last six years and I will miss doing it.”

But Richmond Council Leader Lord True, a long time ally of Mr Goldsmith’s, suggested Mrs Olney may have bargained with more than she could deliver.

Lord True said: “Sarah Olney has built up great expectations. She has told this constituency she will stop Brexit.

“Well I doubt she will be coming before us and resigning if she fails to keep that promise in a year’s time, as Zac Goldsmith did.”

Lord True said Mr Goldsmith was a rarity in today’s politics, wistfully praising his work in the Richmond area.

“The idealism that Zac brought to politics, his energy, and his appeal to all ages is something that has made for one of the happiest times in my political life: having the privilege of being Richmond Council Leader and working alongside Zac Goldsmith,” he said.

Both candidates billed themselves as the underdogs during the campaign, with Mr Goldsmith’s independent campaign describing themselves as outgunned by the Lib Dems.

“On the other side is a national party machine with all its assets. We didn’t know where a single voter was who might support Zac Goldsmith. Our volunteer group had to try and get round the whole constituency,” Lord True said.

“Meanwhile the Lib Dems with all their resources said they had knocked on some doors four times.”

The Richmond Park by-election took on greater significance as it became wrapped up in the two high profile battle grounds of Brexit and Heathrow’s recently approved third runway.

Mrs Olney’s platform prioritised fighting Brexit, while Mr Goldsmith’s vote was a vote against Heathrow’s third runway.

Yet the only significance Lord True was willing to grant the by-election was an increase in agitation against Britain’s decision to leave the EU.

“It will give confidence to those MPs who claim they have a mandate to frustrate the will of the government and through that frustrate the will of the majority of the country,” Lord True concluded.

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