The result of the Richmond Park by-election is in. Mrs Olney has won 49% of the vote on an anti-Brexit ticket, beating Zac Goldsmith into a close second place.
The Europeanists celebrate
Guy Verhofstadt, MEP and a Brexit negotiator for the EU, promptly congratulated the Liberal Democrats:
— Guy Verhofstadt (@GuyVerhofstadt) December 2, 2016
Meanwhile in the New Statesman magazine, a slew of articles trumpet the result as a triumph for remainers.
However, two out of three of those articles fails to mention that over 70% of voters in Richmond Park voted Remain in the EU referendum. The third mentions this fact, but only in passing. It is as if it was only incidental.
Tories in trouble?
In the third article, journalist George Eaton claims that “the principle of blocking Brexit has been endorsed at the ballot box.” Consequently, “marginal Tories risk being caught on the wrong side of their constituents.”
A more convincing analysis
A more convincing analysis is provided by Ross Clark in an article in the Spectator:
“If we interpret the result – as the LibDems have encouraged us to do – as a straight vote on Brexit, we should treat Sarah Olney’s vote as a proxy for Remain and Zac Goldsmith’s vote as a proxy for Leave. If you do that it came out as 49.7 per cent in favour of Remain and 45.1 per cent for Leave. Yet in the referendum in June the Richmond Park constituency voted 70 per cent to 27.7 per cent in favour of Remain. Yesterday’s by-election, in other words, could be interpreted as a huge swing to Leave.”
According to their own logic, the Lib Dems should be mourning (if that isn’t too strong a word) a 21% drop in support for Remain since the referendum.
The long and the short of it
If we interpret the by-election as a vote on Brexit, this result reveals that Remain commands the support of less than 50% of voters in the Remain heartlands. It should therefore be apparent that Remainers stand nothing to gain by continuing to support a lost campaign.
If pro-EU politicians perceive this, as they should, one would expect them to accept the referendum result. If only out of a desire for political self-preservation…