Friday, 2 December 2016

Zac gets the sack! Another Brexit shock

Brexiteer Matthew Offord MP must be worried after Richmond
We awake to the news that Zac Goldsmith is no longer the MP for Richmond. He was soundly beaten by Sarah Olney, the Lib Dem candidate. Goldsmith wanted to turn the campaign into a referendum on Heathrow, but this strategy spectacularly backfired as all of the candidates agreed with him on the subject. There wasn't a pro third runway candidate. What there was, however, was a clear choice between hard Brexit fan Goldsmith and pro remain Lib Dem Sarah Olney. Richmond is a London constituency (rather like Hendon) and London is a very pro Remain area. For the Tories, this was a nightmare. They were stuck between a rock and a hard place. They chose to not stand a candidate (as did UKIP, in a failed attempt to help their soulmate Zac).  As a result, Zac didn't have the party machine and the Lib Dems, seeing an opportunity, threw the kitchen sink at the campaign.

In some ways this isn't a surprise. The Lib Dems have always been good at winning by elections. The Richmond seat was a gift for them. It was formerly a Lib Dem seat until 2010 and with the seat voting staunchly remain, was a clearly winnable seat. Much credit must go to the Greens, who chose
to stand down their candidate. This shows that when parties are pragmatic, they can achieve far more.

For us in Barnet, there is a clear message. Two out of our three MP's are staunch Brexit supporters. Mike Freer, Finchley MP is a remain man. He is popular locally and seems in tune with his electorate. Theresa Villiers and Matthew Offord are hard Brexiteers. Both must surely be sitting far less comfortably in their seats. If Theresa May calls a snap general election, both must be at risk in light of the Richmond vote. London could very well determine the next election. A swathe of Lib Dems lost their seats in 2016, sacked in a protest at the coalition. Many Londoners have seen what a mess the Tories have made and bitterly regret the decision. This is graphically demonstrated by Richmond. The Tories have a wafer thin majority and London could well be the place where this is overturned. Theresa May will no doubt be aware of this and I see the prospect of a snap election retreating into the distance.

For Labour there is little to take from the Richmond election. They were always likely to be squezed. Richmond didn't seem to be a very Corbynite seat and their candidate lost his deposit. The seat clearly shows that electors have forgiven the Lib Dems for the sins of the coalition. We want to move forward. It is clear that in London Brexit is a major issue and people are worried. It seems to me that we have two Barnet MPs who are massively out of step with their voters. Only time will tell whether they follow Zac to the job centre, but this morning that looks like a very real possibility.

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