Goldsmith’s Gamble Fails

A penny for Zac Goldsmith’s thoughts today! The now former MP for Richmond Park in Southwest London, resigned from his seat and from the Conservative Party to force a by-election in the constituency, to show his opposition to the Government’s plan to expand Heathrow.

In the by-election held yesterday, Goldsmith was beaten by Lib Dem Sarah Olney, who overturned the former MP’s 23000-seat majority to win by nearly 2000 votes.

Neither the Conservative Party nor UKIP stood a candidate in the by-election and Goldsmith still couldn’t win. This was mixed messaging on the part of the Tories in that they were allowing someone who resigned from the party a relatively clear run at the seat, despite the fact the election was triggered in opposition to government policy (although who knows what may have been agreed behind the scenes between Tory party elders and Goldsmith).

Another implication of this Tory miscalculation is that they have seen their majority in parliament reduced to 13 (indirectly strengthening the hand of our local representatives, particularly the DUP). This result also reduces the likelihood of an early general election as Theresa May will be unwilling to go to the country if she feels that there is a strong chance that pro-Remain constituencies vote for a candidate who supports their position on Europe as opposed to Tory Leaver, which is exactly what happened here with both Labour and Tory Remainers giving their vote to Olney.

Labour’s performance in the by-election was poor (share of the vote down by 8.7%), but this must be put in context. Many in the party, including shadow business Secretary Clive Lewis, were calling for the party to stand aside to give the Lib Dems a clear run and as I mentioned earlier, many Labour supporters gave their vote to Olney. Labour’s performance in this seat has always been relatively poor. Even in 1997 they gained only 12% of the vote in the general election that saw Tony Blair swept in to office with a huge landslide.

There’s no doubting Lib Dem tails were up this morning. The party now have an additional MP (now 9 in total), but they will now use this result as a base to rebuild following the nadir of the 2015 general election when they lost 49 MPs. They also have an opportunity to carve out a niche for themselves amongst the three main parties in England in that they unequivocally pro-Europe, unlike Labour and The Tories, both of whom are conflicted on the issue.

2016 has been a horrific year for Zac Goldsmith personally. Having been defeated by Sadiq Khan in the London Mayoral elections when his smearing of Khan and dog-whistle tactics were condemned even by Conservatives, he has now lost his seat in Parliament. Few will mourn his political demise.

By-election results can be notoriously difficult to interpret. Low turnout, an opportunity to punish a sitting Government and the chance to fight on a single issue mean that results can be easily misread. On the other hand, this by-election may signal a change in British politics from voters voting along party lines to one where they begin to vote on the basis of Leave vs Remain, or as Tony Blair puts it, Open vs Closed. There is no doubt however that things have certainly become a little more interesting.

  • wycombewanderer

    If the 8 other limp dumbs resigned their seats and stood on a a sole brexit ticket against a leaver they would have five seats left and little timmys might not be one of those.

  • Loving the oblique reference to Enoch Powell in the headline, but can’t see Zac Goldsmith standing in South Down any time soon…

  • Actually, I take that back, the reference is to “Heath’s Gamble Fails”, The Times (London) headline 1 March 1974.

  • ted hagan

    A ‘horrific’ year for Goldsmith? Come on, get thinks in perspective, he’s a multi millionaire for goodness sake. ‘Horrific years’ are for people like the citizens of Aleppo and their like.

  • hgreen

    To quote Owen Jones “Goldsmith is a multimillionaire chancer who attempted to seize the London mayoralty with a shameful and shamelessly racist campaign.”

    Yep definitely makes a general election more unlikely. Though I think the Tories will be reluctant to expose the clearly out of her depth Teasey to intense scrutiny anyway.

  • notimetoshine

    A truly bizarre by election, one wonders what was going on in the minds of those at Tory HQ. The whole letting Goldsmith resign, stand unopposed thing seems like someone in charge couldn’t be bothered devising a strategy. It’s a natural Tory seat, how in hell they could lose it and to the libdems is anyone’s guess.

  • Slater

    Sad to see an Ulster boy losing his seat (he has another at Mountstewart) but suspect this is the curse of Kincora again as Zak was a full-on conspiracy theorist in that department.

  • Aguirre

    I pray that you are right.

  • ted hagan

    Never mind the Goldsmith defeat , Brexit, hospital waiting lists, prison deaths, austerity, homelessness, etc, surely the big issue of the day has got to be the scandal that is the omission of Carl Frampton from the Sports Personality of the Year Award? I mean the chip on the shoulder of Northern Ireland folk is now in a precarious and dangerous state It’s a national disgrace. Thank goodness the likes of real politicians like Arlene Foster and Gregory Campbell are putting less important matters aside to devote themselves to the Frampton Fiasco.
    Surely after the Stormont denunciation of the Spoty decisions, questions must be raised at Westminster and the Spoty show boycotted by all right-thinking people in our great wee country?

  • hgreen

    Mmm let me guess. Brexit?

  • notimetoshine

    I’m sure that’s how the libdems won, but can’t help but wondering why the Tories dropped the ball so badly on this.

    Though Zac Goldsmith is a loathsome human being, can only hope his constituency remembered the horrible campaign he led in London.

  • billypilgrim1

    Boycott SPOTY? Is that all?

    Northern Ireland must now leave the Union. Anything less is Lundyite treachery to Ulster.