A ‘stunning victory’ or a ‘big shame’? Reactions as Lib Dems oust Zac Goldsmith in Richmond by-election
The Lib Dems are celebrating after Sarah Olney ejected Zac Goldsmith from his Richmond Park seat early this morning.
There was a 21.7% swing towards the Lib Dems in the by-election called after Mr Goldsmith stood down to protest against Heathrow expansion.
Ms Olney credited her election as the ninth Lib Dem MP to an anti-Brexit wave in Richmond – where voted 70% for Remain.
She said: “We will defend the Britain we love. We will stand up for the open, tolerant, united Britain that we believe in.
“The people of Richmond Park and North Kingston have sent a shockwave through this Conservative Brexit Government.”
Lib Dem leader Tim Farron said the party’s first by-election gain since 2006 was a sign of their recovery.
The race had been close but betting markets were predicting a 76% chance of a Mr Goldsmith victory until a few days ago. Ms Olney only became the favourite after polling closed.
Other south west London Lib Dems were quick to congratulate Ms Olney, including Carshalton and Wallington MP Tom Brake.
Ms Olney is the only female Lib Dem MP, but follows Jenny Tonge and Susan Kramer as a Lib Dem member for Richmond.
Ms Olney and Baroness Kramer were snapped by one supporter before the count this morning.
Meanwhile, Kingston MP James Berry congratulated Ms Olney but worried it would give the green light for Heathrow expansion.
Mr Goldsmith was the first sitting MP to step down and lose in a by-election since 1986.
He commented: “This by election we just had was not a political calculation. It was a promise I made and a promise I kept.”
But the less famous of his siblings was not as gracious on Twitter.
Campaigners against Heathrow growth welcomed Ms Olney’s anti-expansion pledge but said Brexit had diverted from the issue.
The Lib Dems have not yet cemented gains in other Remain areas in south west London like Wandsworth and Lambeth.
The old parliamentary Liberal Party was described as so small it could fit into the back of a cab.
The modern party can still fit into a single tweet though.