Tag Archives: richmond park by-election

Sarah Olney: Richmond Park By-Election was one of the best experiences of my life

Our newest MP has been talking to The House magazine, along with other recent by-election winners, about the Liberal Democrats’ winning campaign in Richmond Park. She described it as one of the best experiences of her life:

Running in a by-election was one of the best experiences of my life. I am very new to politics, I’ve never been involved in a parliamentary campaign of any kind, I’ve never been a candidate in any election before, so I had no idea what to expect. It was quite a high profile campaign, right from the beginning I was right in the

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Our not-so-decrepit peers

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If you read the Evening Standard the day before the Richmond Park by-election, you might have noticed this wonderful comment on the participation of Liberal Democrat peers in the campaign, which I suspect came from someone in Zac Goldsmith’s team who was overwhelmed by how many Liberal Democrat activists were on the streets.

One hundred Lib Dem peers were sent to knock on doors. Only a handful of the ill and very old were spared by-election duties – in echoes of James Graham’s play This House which recounts how MPs close to death were dragged to the Commons for crunch votes in the seventies.

If you’ve seen the play, you will appreciate the picture of the elderly and infirm being wheeled in to do their bit.  Of course it wasn’t at all like that.  I don’t think more than 25 of us were ever there together at one time, though many of us went as often as we could, and canvassed over the phone when we couldn’t:  not as a ‘duty’, but because we enjoy election campaigns, we’ve done a lot of campaigning in our time, and we’re committed to the party.

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What a campaign!

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The Richmond Park campaign was the biggest the party has ever done. Phew!

In writing this post I don’t want to give away too many campaigning strategies, although the media have been pretty quick to spot our ways of working. They know that we are good at ‘deploying’ volunteers, but they don’t really understand how we do it. How, they wonder, do we manage to recruit 1000 people in one weekend, from all over the country? How do we get them to travel and stay at their own expense and then embark on some punishing walking, talking and delivering in the cold and dark for hours on end?

However, I know that many of our readers do understand what that is all about. We all care passionately about our values and the vision we have for our society, and we enjoy putting them into action in the company of like-minded people, who quickly become our friends.

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WATCH: Nick Clegg: Voters don’t like being told by Brexiteers that they have no right to a say

Classy stuff from Nick Clegg on the BBC News Channel. It was put to him that we couldn’t extrapolate a wider Liberal Democrat resurgence from the Richmond Park result. That’s perfectly right, he said, and then came out with a whole stream of stats showing how well we are doing in local government by-elections and everywhere where people get a chance to hear what we have to say.

He also said that Brexiteers are rubbing voters up the wrong way by dismissing their concerns and right to be heard. Watch the interview here.

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Richmond Park: what happens next for Sarah Olney and her team?

10 years ago, I was part of the team in the last by-electon we gained, when Willie Rennie spectacularly won Dunfermline and West Fife in then Chancellor Gordon Brown’s backyard. At that time it was a political earthquake. It was also a huge victory at a time of crisis for our party. Only weeks before, Charles Kennedy had resigned as leader. During the by-election campaign there seemed to be a tabloid scandal about our leadership candidates around every half hour. We still came through and elected Willie as our 63rd MP.

A decade on, we only have a 7th of that number and the Richmond Park by-election win comes at a time when our party has stared down extinction. It confirms what we have come to realise over the past few months – that the old adage that where we have a presence, and are willing to put the effort in, we can have some spectacular results. That should also impress anyone who might be thinking about backing us financially. That backing in turn gives us the capacity to expand our operations, creating a virtuous cycle. We have to make sure that we seize this moment.

Sarah Olney enters the Commons as part of a band of 9 and as the only woman. The 8 men will need to make extra effort to make sure that they welcome her and listen to her.  One of the things we found really useful was the advice and support from colleagues and I’m sure that they will have lots of helpful advice for her and her team.  Susan Kramer as the previous MP for the constituency will no doubt be a marvellous help too.

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Richmond Park is an important milestone – but it’s only the start

Well, we’re winning parliamentary by-elections again. Who’d have thought it possible on that awful night almost 19 months ago?

Liberal Democrats everywhere are grinning this morning. We’ve seen the brilliant local government results over the past few months. We saw the amazing Liz Leffman surge forward in the Tory heartland of Witney in October. Now, we have actually won another MP.

We shouldn’t under-estimate how massive a task winning Richmond Park was. It’s only been 37 days since Zac resigned. We had just over 5 weeks to change the agenda from Heathrow to Brexit and win the argument. A combination of clever literature, a fantastic candidate and an army of activists prepared to drop everything did it. Way back in the 90s when we were winning by-elections all the time, we had at least 3 times as long to make our case.

We also shouldn’t under-estimate how important it was that we won this. It was a seat we used to hold with a whacking great Remain vote. If we hadn’t, even if we had had a Witney type surge, people would have doubted our ability to change the political weather.

Sarah Olney’s victory has shown that we have still got what it takes to win the big moments. That is incredibly important for the outside world to see. Theresa May will be hoping that her MPs in similar seats to Richmond, where there is Liberal Democrat history, don’t cause any further by-elections.

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Lib Dems win Richmond Park: Reaction led by Tim Farron and Sal Brinton

Here’s some of the reaction to Sarah Olney’s incredible victory in Richmond Park.

Tim Farron said that the Liberal Democrats are the standard bearers for those who oppose the dangerous path towards Brexit being pursued by the Government.

The message is clear: The Liberal Democrats are back and we are carrying the torch for all of those who want a real opposition to this Conservative Brexit Government.

We are the only party fighting to keep Britain open, tolerant and united, and the only party that has said, loudly and proudly, that we want Britain to remain a member of the Single Market and that we want the people to be given the final say over the Brexit deal. That message has been resoundingly backed by the people of Richmond Park.

This was a remarkable, come-from-nowhere upset that will terrify the Conservatives. A year and a half ago, their man won by nearly 40% and had a majority of more than 20,000. In one fell swoop we have wiped that out completely.

If this was a General Election, this swing would mean the Conservatives would lose dozens of seats to the Liberal Democrats – and their majority with it. No one believes the Labour Party will win any seats off the Tories – and the SNP could only possibly take one off them. But there are dozens in our reach. So, as this by-election has demonstrated, the only way to prevent a Conservative majority at the next election is to vote Liberal Democrat.

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