Shortly after winning the Richmond Park by-election, Sarah Olney was interviewed by Julia Hartley-Brewer about her victory:
JHB: When is the second by-election going to be held?
SO: What do you mean?
JHB: Well, we don’t really know if voters knew what they were voting for when they voted for you, so should we have a second ballot? You want a second EU referendum don’t you?
SO: I was very clear in my campaign what I was voting for and the voters have returned me to Parliament with a very clear mandate.
JHB: A clear mandate — but less than 50 pc of the people voted for you. Are you sure you have that mandate?
The interview continues in this vein until an aid pulls Olney out of the interview – allegedly because she has another interview to get to…
A good loser no more
Things didn’t have to play out this way. Following the result of the referendum, Mrs Olney said Brexiteers and Remainers should set aside their differences and make a success of Brexit in a blog post.
Sadly, it seems Tim Farron got to her. Mrs Olney has since deleted her website and changed her tune. She has declared that she will now vote against invoking Article 50 even if the government proposes a second referendum on the terms of Brexit.
Too honest for politics
When asked a difficult question, Mrs Olney did that rare thing for a politician: she tried to answer it. If that meant admitting that the Liberal Democrats had left it until after they lost the referendum to suggest voters have another go, then so be it. That’s what she did.
While it was quite refreshing for an MP not to employ the usual tactics – such as avoiding the question or talking a lot but not actually saying anything – this didn’t help her cause.
One fears that Mrs Olney may be too honest for politics…