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Brexit controversy ousts Tories from safe seat: Lib Dem newcomer Sarah Olney wins by election

Saturday, December 3rd 2016 - 07:44 UTC
Full article 13 comments
Lib Dem challenger Sarah Olney overturned MP Zac Goldsmith's 23,015 majority to finish 1,872 votes ahead. Lib Dem challenger Sarah Olney overturned MP Zac Goldsmith's 23,015 majority to finish 1,872 votes ahead.
Farron said it was the beginning of UK finally having a decent, moderate, tolerant opposition to Tories that fills the space that Corbyn's Labour party has left behind. Farron said it was the beginning of UK finally having a decent, moderate, tolerant opposition to Tories that fills the space that Corbyn's Labour party has left behind.

Lib Dem leader Tim Farron claims his party is “back in the big time” after it fought on the issue of Brexit to oust ex-Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith in the Richmond Park by-election. Lib Dem challenger Sarah Olney overturned Goldsmith's 23,015 majority to finish 1,872 votes ahead.

 Goldsmith quit the Tories to stand as an independent after the government backed a third Heathrow runway. But the Lib Dems successfully switched the focus of the campaign to Brexit. Goldsmith was among Conservatives who backed a Leave vote in the 23 June referendum on the UK's membership of the EU.

Farron said the outcome was a verdict on Theresa May's “UKIP-ish” take on Brexit and showed that it was possible for moderates to win. The result was seized on by the European Parliament's lead Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt - a Liberal politician - who congratulated Ms Olney and said Europe “is watching”.

But Verhofstadt's intervention provoked anger from Conservative former leader and prominent Leave campaigner Iain Duncan Smith who warned him to “mind his own bloody business”.

“I assume this means he is prepared to stand by the result of the EU referendum which means that we are leaving, so he should stop moaning and carping and trying to damage this.”

Conservative Remain campaigner Anna Soubry said the result was “sensational”, tweeting that MPs “ignore Remainers at their peril & u can forget #Hardbrexit”.

Farron told BBC2 Dialy Politics: “Overturning a 23,000 majority comes as a shock under any circumstances.” He added: “Sarah is a reminder that populism does not automatically have to win. Those results: Brexit, Trump, the last general election, there was nothing inevitable about them.

”It is entirely possible for moderate progressive people to win.

“This is the beginning, not just of the British people choosing to own what happens next over Brexit - it's also the beginning of Britain finally having a decent, moderate, tolerant opposition to the Tories that fills the space that Jeremy Corbyn's Labour party have left behind.

But John Curtice, professor of politics at the University of Strathclyde and president of the British Polling Council, urged caution at reading too much into the result.

While it did give the Lib Dems a chance to demonstrate their credibility, and get themselves noticed in what had previously been a Lib Dem seat, he told BBC Radio 4 World at One program: ”To try to suggest that this by-election success tells us anything about the mood of the country in relation to Brexit is mistaken.

“The polling evidence is that we still have a situation where the country is divided pretty much 50:50 on the merits of Remain versus Leave, much as it was on 24 June.”

Lib Dems poured resources into the contest in the staunchly Remain south-west London seat after Mr Goldsmith quit as a Conservative MP to force the by-election, so he could run as an anti-Heathrow expansion independent.

A relative newcomer to politics, Sarah Olney said she was compelled to join the Liberal Democrats after the 2015 general election. In her victory speech, she said: “A year and a half ago I wasn't involved in politics, I wasn't a member of a political party, I had never been involved in a political campaign, I had never thought about being a politician. But I knew I was a liberal.

”When I saw what happened in the general election last year I felt I had to get involved.”

Ms Olney, who lives in Kingston with her husband Ben and two children, works as a qualified accountant at the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington.

Categories: Politics, International.

Top Comments

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  • Voice

    Lib Dem leader Tim Farron claims his party is “back in the big time”

    By Big Time do you mean 9 MP's...
    Compared to the...328 Cons
                                  231 Labs....

    Dec 03rd, 2016 - 04:11 pm +1
  • ChrisR

    WTF were the Conservatives doing by not contesting the election with a Conservative delegate?

    Goldsmith is a loser, even his rich mates knew that.

    Dec 03rd, 2016 - 08:05 pm 0
  • Briton

    The yellow peril strikes back.

    Dec 03rd, 2016 - 08:33 pm 0
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