Lib Dems win Richmond Park by-election

The Liberal Democrats have won the Richmond Park by-election.

The Lib Dem candidate Ms Olney campaigned on an anti-Brexit ticket. That’s despite her having initially accepted the result of the referendum in a blog post.

Ms Olney polled 20,510 votes to Mr Goldsmith’s 18,638, overturning the Conservative majority of 23,015.


Background


The by-election had been triggered when Zac Goldsmith stood down as an MP.

In doing so he was honouring an election promise to stand down in the event that the government chose to expand Heathrow airport.


An electoral mountain to climb


The result is unsurprising considering that 70% of voters in Richmond Park voted Remain – a percentage that is highly unrepresentative of the UK vote. But if the Lib Dems are to become a significant electoral force again, they must also succeed in areas of the country that are more representative. Being a party for prosperous areas which voted against the country in the referendum will only take them so far.

The trouble is that many remainers are good losers. They accept that everyone participated in the referendum on the understanding that the government would implement the result. Therefore, the government must implement the result. According to YouGov polling, 68% of the public wants Brexit to go ahead. To put that another way, a third of Remain voters now support the result regardless of any misgivings.

The Lib Dems risk finding that their anti-Brexit stance offends against the British sense of fair play and respect for democracy. In attempting to turn democracy against itself, the Lib Dems are taking a big risk. If it does not pay off, the party’s future looks grim.