Lib Dem Sarah Olney bids to oust Zac Goldsmith in Richmond Park by-election

If Zac Goldsmith faces his second election defeat this year in the Richmond Park by-election then new politician on the block Sarah Olney could be why.

It is her first electoral campaign, but an anti-Brexit wave could see her elected as the only female Lib Dem MP on Thursday, December 1.

The 39-year-old accountant describes herself as one of thousands of people politicised by the EU referendum.

“If I’d had any personal ambition to be an MP, there’s no way I would have joined the Lib Dems,” she said.

“I’m a normal person, I would never have dreamed of joining a political party – I didn’t even know anyone who was.”

Being a non-professional politician in an era of anti-establishment politics may benefit her against Mr Goldsmith – who backed Leave.

It is Ms Olney’s anti-Brexit stance which she hopes will lead her to victory in Richmond Park – where an estimated 73% voted Remain.

“We’re getting so many people saying ‘I’ve always voted Tory, I’ve never voted Lib Dem, but I’m appalled about Brexit and so I’m giving you my vote this time’,” she said.

“A lot of disillusioned Tories always voted Tory because they’re the party of safety, stability, security. And now they have plunged the country into this massive crisis.”

The Lib Dems hope their opposition to Brexit can revive their fortunes in prosperous Remain areas like Richmond.

Ms Olney is determined that her election would show Theresa May she could lose seats on this issue.

She said: “48% isn’t niche – there’s nothing niche about being half of the people.”

While she previously hinted that there shouldn’t be a second referendum, she is now firmly behind the Lib Dem stance of a referendum on the final deal.

She said:  “I would have a forceful mandate to oppose Brexit at every opportunity. I would always be pushing for Remain.

“But when Remain is no longer a logical stance then we can think about what the next best thing is.”

While Ms Olney’s campaign is dominated by Brexit, she knows that the Heathrow debate plays a big part too.

“Theresa May has approved Heathrow simply because she needed to send a strong pro-business message after Brexit,” she said.

Polling suggests opposition to the runway is strongest in Richmond. But she remains sceptical of Mr Goldsmith’s resignation over the issue.

It is an unusual by-election, with no official Conservative or UKIP candidates and the Greens backing Ms Olney – but Sarah is cautious about a ‘Progressive Alliance’.

“I think in separate local battles there might be a good case for parties talking to each other,” she said.

“But at the end of the day, I am not here to represent Jeremy Corbyn.

“I think voters need the choice and I don’t want to be standing as a default Labour candidate.”

Ultimately, Ms Olney’s focus remains on Brexit which she says is stifling political debate.

“NHS funding is going to directly affect more people this winter than arguing about Article 50,” she said.

“There needs to be a whole lot more – say something in the measure of £350m a week.”

But before she can concentrate on NHS funding, she expects she will be asking the Prime Minister about Brexit if elected.

Her first planned question is: “What are the terms on which you plan to exit the European Union and can we have a vote on them?”

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