Tag Archives: sarah olney

Sarah Olney’s maiden speech

Well, it has been a long time since we have been able to report on the maiden speech of a Liberal Democrat MP.

Sarah spoke today in the debate on the impact of Brexit on science and research. Until a few weeks ago she was working at the National Physical Laboratory, which lies just across the Thames from her Richmond Park constituency, so she has an insider’s view on the subject.

Here is her speech (taken from the rolling feed on Hansard which may be subject to correction):

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Goodwill towards us is growing, and so it should

 

More than 2000 years ago, so the story goes, angels sang ‘Goodwill towards all mankind.’ It’s a sentiment that Liberal Democrats can generally support. The point I want to suggest, however, is that the British people feel an increasing goodwill towards us, which seems likely to grow and enhance our electoral chances.

The first essential was that we should be seen and heard. Now Sarah Olney’s magnificent victory has given us the media coverage that dispels the 18-month myth of our irrelevance.

The next essential was that the image projected should be an attractive one. For the voters of Richmond Park and Kingston it obviously was, and for us Lib Dems the sight of the beaming faces of victor and Leader together in front of the cameras was a delight.

Image is vital for success in politics, but what did that image amount to for the public? What, for a start, was the new MP saying? “I knew I was a Liberal – I believe in openness, fairness, compassion, working with our neighbours at home and around the world”, Sarah said in her acceptance speech. She spoke of the rise of anger and bitterness in politics, and pledged that “We will stand up for the open, tolerant, united Britain that we believe in.”

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Next priority – elect a second Green MP

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I hope it hasn’t been forgotten that the Green Party didn’t stand a candidate in Richmond Park, and expressly backed Sarah Olney. Labour did stand a candidate, but it was widely reported that some Labour members didn’t think they should have.

On the other side of course, neither the Conservatives nor UKIP stood, therefore leaving the centre-right vote clear for Zac Goldsmith. It was an unusual by-election, 95% of the vote went to two people. There may not be another by-election like this in this parliament.

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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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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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