++Lib Dems select Sarah Olney to be our candidate at the Richmond Park by-election

Sarah Olney has been selected to contest the Richmond Park and North Kingston December 1st by-election for the Liberal Democrats.

An opinion poll has shown it is a two-horse race between local woman Sarah and Zac Goldsmith, the out-going Conservative Brexit MP whose resignation triggered the by-election. Sarah, an accountant and married mother of two, was selected at a meeting of the local party in Richmond today.

Sarah Olney said:

This by-election is a chance for people to have their say on Brexit, the NHS and Heathrow. Only a vote for the Liberal Democrats will make a stand against Heathrow and Brexit, not to mention the scandalous underfunding of the NHS.

At the school gate or in Richmond Park you meet people who are really worried about their livelihoods with the Conservatives playing Russian roulette with the British economy. They are also fearful about pollution, noise and congestion resulting from Conservative plans for Heathrow.

I am really grateful to the Liberal Democrats for showing such faith in me, and now I intend to do my absolute best for the people of this wonderful area.

Baroness Sal Brinton, President of the Liberal Democrats, was at the meeting to congratulate Sarah on her selection.

Sal Brinton said:

Sarah is talented, super-bright and a really dedicated, hard working campaigner.

A poll has shown that she has already slashed Zac Goldsmith’s lead and that she is his only challenger. Labour MPs have also been saying that if you want to beat the Conservatives, you have to vote Lib Dem here.

Zac Goldsmith is an independent candidate in name only and is being backed by Nigel Farage and UKIP. He is the candidate of a reckless, divisive and uncaring Conservative government. Liberal Democrats will be pouring into Richmond Park and we will run our biggest campaign in modern times.

Sarah, 39, lives with her husband Ben, a town planner, and their two children, Isabel, 7, and Rufus, 3, at their home in North Kingston. She is an accountant who works in nearby Teddington.

She has always been a Liberal Democrat voter but was moved to join the Liberal Democrats by Nick Clegg’s inspiring speech after the 2015 general election. “I realised then that it was so longer enough to sit cheering from the side-lines,” she says. “I needed to play an active part in the Liberal Democrat fightback, and campaign for a Britain that was open, tolerant and united.”

It was Conservative plans to introduce a Brexit referendum that fired her determination to stand for parliament. She was selected overwhelmingly by members as the Liberal Democrat candidate for Richmond Park after the referendum, and after a meeting at Grey Court School in the constituency has now been confirmed as Lib Dem candidate in the by-election.

She has taken up the two-decade long Liberal Democrat cause of opposing a third runway at Heathrow. As an asthmatic, she knows first-hand how pollution damages the quality of life locally. “Only the Liberal Democrats are united in fighting Heathrow expansion, as we are in fighting a hard Brexit and for proper NHS funding,” she says. “On these big questions, the Conservatives are totally divided and are driving through measures that are massively damaging to the constituency. Richmond Park desperately needs a local champion who understands the economic pressures and the everyday problems like trying to get a doctor’s appointment. I want to be the person who stands up for local people.”

Sarah will campaign to improve the NHS, local transport and supply of affordable housing.

While not knocking on doors, her weekends are often spent teaching her kids to ride their bikes in her beloved Richmond Park.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist and member of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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  • Jayne Mansfield 30th Oct '16 - 6:55pm

    I hope that she beats the UKIP candidate.

  • Jayne – UKIP is not standing. They are endorsing Zac Goldsmith.

  • Philip Rolle 30th Oct '16 - 11:30pm

    I don’t think this was the correct decision. A “big gun” should have stood. Zac to win, I think.

  • Conor McGovern 30th Oct '16 - 11:46pm

    I’ll be voting for Sarah.

  • Andrew McCaig 31st Oct '16 - 12:04am

    I think there is a lot to be said for a David vs. Goliath contest… Lots of fairly unknown candidates have won by-elections for the Party… And they don’t come much more Goliath than Goldsmith!

  • There may be a lot to be said for a David v Goliath contest, but in the position the party is in now, it is an opportunity missed. It was a difficult battle before this decision, but a now it is a very, very tough one.

    We have to make Heathrow our issue. Then we can undermine Zac Goldsmith on the rest. The line has to be Zac getting re-elected will not worry Theresa May one bit. That’s why the Conservatives are not standing against him. What would worry Theresa May is the prospect of half a dozen Lib Dem MPs in South West London again. That is why it is essential to vote Lib Dem if you want to get the government to dismiss the third runway with all its environmental issues.

    With a big name all this would have looked likely. Now it only looks possible.

  • @ David Evan

    I can’t remember us ever selecting a big name for a by-election. There are examples from the past (before I was born) – Ludovic Kennedy – Rochdale (1958) and maybe Mark Bonham Carter (grandson of Asquith) also in 1958.

    We can’t select the two previous Liberal Democrat MPs for this seat as they both are in the House of Lords. I don’t know anything about Robin Meltzer who stood for us in 2015, but we have sometimes in the past selected the candidate who fought the seat at the previous general election – Newbury – David Rendel (1993), Eastleigh – David Chidgey (1993).

    I would love to know how many candidates were on the ballot papers from which Sarah Olney was selected. She seems to have been fast tracked from joining in May 2015 to being an approved candidate and an approved by-election candidate in just over a year!

    For us, it is often more important that the candidate has local connections to the seat and Sarah seems to have these. We had lots of councillors in the 1990’s, but across the Borough of Richmond we have declined from 35 in 2006 to 15 in 2014, hopefully some these are in the constituency.

  • The Eastleigh by-election was in 1994 not 1993.

  • Eddie Sammon 31st Oct '16 - 1:15am

    All things equal the constituency will vote for someone who voted remain not brexit. However if people think the Lib Dems are the “don’t accept the referendum” party then a winnable situation becomes less so.

    Flexibility is key. The party needs to move quickly with events whilst retaining core principles.

  • David Evans 31st Oct '16 - 1:55am

    Michael, there have been a number of big name candidates in the past, certainly in a local context, and occasionally in a national one. The fact that Vince wasn’t persuaded to stand is a severe disappointment, as another chance for someone to put right at least some of the mistakes made in coalition has been missed.

    So far the party has been lucky in the by-elections that have turned up. In Batley we had a good reason for not standing, and in Witney we had an excellent, well known local councillor, Liz Leffman who stood and gave us a good result, which made the media take notice of us again. We now need a very good result, which means winning in Richmond Park to consolidate that progress. We need to do better than we did in Witney, where we started in fourth place, as otherwise the media will look to dismiss us once again as national no hopers. That would be a disastrous situation to be in after all the effort over the last 50 years that had gone into building up the party and giving our MPs that chance.

    Sarah now needs masses of help from all over the country to make sure we make the most of the chance we have been given.

  • Jayne Mansfield 31st Oct '16 - 6:44am

    @Mary Reid,
    I understand that Mary, I have given up on diplomacy and nuance, so it’s the same thing as far as I am concerned.

    @ Philip Rolle,
    I wouldn’t give what would be a tactical vote to some of the Liberal Democrat’s big names.
    There is something refreshing about Sarah as the party’s choice. I Presume that she has made her mark locally or she wouldn’t have been chosen. I wish her success in her endeavour.

  • Alex Macfie 31st Oct '16 - 6:44am

    Eddie Sammon: Campaigning for what we believe in on the EU does not mean we “don’t accept the referendum”. We accept the last general election result. It doesn’t mean we have to wholeheartedly support everything the government does without reservation.

  • Alex Macfie 31st Oct '16 - 6:48am

    I think it was very astute and sensible for us to select in Sarah a candidate with no links to the party’s recent past. And we are not the sort of party that parachutes people into winnable contests. That’s what the Tories and Labour do. Our ability to win by-elections comes from reading the local situation correctly.

    “We can’t select the two previous Liberal Democrat MPs for this seat as they both are in the House of Lords.”

    And one of them has gone rogue. And the two former Lib DMPs for neighbouring constituencies explicitly ruled themselves out.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 31st Oct '16 - 7:33am

    Alex Macfie – You make a good point, that it was probably quite wise to choose a candidate who is not associated with the party’s recent past, even though it does seem as if she became a candidate rather quickly. I’m sure she must be an impressive candidate, to have been chosen after such a relatively short time as a party member. Am I right in thinking that you live in the constituency, Alex?

  • As a local Party member who has heard Sarah speak a few times at gatherings of sympathetic souls, I do not doubt for a minute her commitment and enthusiasm, but her coherence and political depth are more open questions. Anyone else remember Tony Cook in the must-winDarlington by-election? I was there and the similarities worry me. Albeit there is no Vincent Hanna these days.

    I hope we do not regret bringing in an experienced pair of hands.

  • Peter Watson 31st Oct '16 - 8:14am

    @Andrew McCaig “I think there is a lot to be said for a David vs. Goliath contest… And they don’t come much more Goliath than Goldsmith!”
    I doubt that it will be portrayed that way round: Goldsmith will be standing alone, a plucky individual facing the Lib Dem party machine as it ships in hundreds or thousands of members from all over the country to tell Richmond Park what to do.
    Throwing everything into this and making it a referendum on Brexit comes with the risk that finishing second, even with a big improvement over the 2015 election, could look like failure and an endorsement of Brexit.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 31st Oct '16 - 8:35am

    David, I noticed there seemed to be a lack of information about the selection eg whether there were any other candidates apart from Sarah. It was just announced afterwards that Sarah was chosen “unanimously”, which possibly suggested that there were no other potential candidates.
    On the facebook site for the by-election campaign – “Richmond Park Lib Dem Vitual HQ”, people were asking questions and trying to start discussions about the process, but the admins for the site kept closing these discussions, on the grounds that it was not right to allow any discussion that might influence the decision. This did seem to suggest a certain lack of transparency. This is not meant as a criticism of Sarah, as the apparent secrecy would not have been her decision.
    It would be interesting to hear anything that you, as a local member, are able to share with us – although obviously I understand if you feel that this information should not be shared outside the local party.

  • Mark Blackburn 31st Oct '16 - 9:42am

    I’m pleased that Sarah has been selected, I think it speaks a lot for the ethics of the party, ‘the way we do things round here’. After all, she was selected as the ’emergency PPC’ some months back against some high profile opposition and to dump her for a heavyweight would have been ‘old politics’. She deserves her chance. (Said an emergency PPC)

  • I cannot believe this debate is taking place. Talk about being pedantic. Just get on with the election, she looks good, sounds good and by jolly she is doing me good.
    Appointing defeated candidates like Vince Cable is often a bad move, voters are not keen on that sort of thing, remember the Leyton by election of 1964 for one, Winchester in 1997 for another. Lets cut the c… and on to a great result.

  • Richard Underhill 31st Oct '16 - 10:12am
  • And Roy Jenkins in Hillhead, as I recall…

  • Andrew McCaig 31st Oct '16 - 10:28am

    Ok, no point discussing this process now, we have a candidate and need to get on with it. Hopefully any inexperienced by-election candidate gets some intensive media training. We are seeing already that we will get a lot more media exposure than in Witney ..

    With the Evening Standard on his side and the Tories making way for him, Goldsmith is clearly the super-rich establishment candidate, and we should not let him get away with anything else. His sister has just put her house on the market for £8million! These are not normal people by any standards

    In terms of expectation that first poll (despite being almost completely meaningless if you look at the small initial sample and the extent to which weighting has reduced the effective sample to <200) has been good for us. We are clearly in second place but if we fail to win it will be the popularity of Goldsmith that will be to blame. We do need to improve on that initial 29% however

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 31st Oct '16 - 10:50am

    Andrew McCaig, Its Zac who is standing for election, not his sister. I’m not sure that its relevant how much Zac’s sister has put her house on the market for. She is not a politician, and has a right to privacy like anyone else.
    There seem to be too many personal attacks on Zac and his family, just because they are wealthy. This seems like stirring up resentment and prejudice on grounds of class – something that is to be expected from the left wing of the Labour Party, but not from liberals

  • Just to be awkward I have completely changed my mind about this. Someone earlier in this thread doubted the candidate’s political coherence and breadth but not her enthusiasm. Political breadth and coherence are common or garden things but ENTHUSIASM now you are talking!

  • Jayne Mansfield 31st Oct '16 - 11:09am

    @ Richard Underhill,

    That was before the coalition years and the cuts, for example, the cut in real terms of 6% in children’s mental health services from 2009- 2010 , the last year of the Labour Government , and the last available figures in 2012- 2013, where political priorities meant that money that should have been available for the delivery of care was diverted to the marketisation of the NHS by politicians who ( as it turns out), don’t know the price of anything let alone the value of anything.

    There seems to be some form of Stockholm Syndrome at work in the Liberal Democrats. Politicians ‘untainted’ by the coalition years or the voting records of some of your MPs seems to me to be your best hope for the future.

  • Richard Underhill 31st Oct '16 - 11:12am

    Some people might be assuming that a wealthy candidate could influence the election, but the contest is against entire political party / parties and there are limits on expenditure, even in by-elections.

  • It’s not just because they’re wealthy, it’s because their wealth is unearned. All credit to the self-made people who have built their fortunes from scratch. But the Goldsmiths inherited their billions and have no idea what it is like to have to work for a living. It’s nothing to do with “class prejudice”. The Tories are supposed to be the aspirational party. Well the Goldsmiths haven’t had to aspire to anything, they represent privilege, not aspiration.

  • David Evershed 31st Oct '16 - 11:26am

    We should not be attacking political opponents because their parents were wealthy and they inherited money.

    Similarly we should not attack political opponents because their parents were poor and they did not inherit money.

    We should focus on the policies or lack of them rather than personal attacks, whilst pointing out where opponents may have made personal attacks themselves.

  • Eddie Sammon 31st Oct '16 - 12:42pm

    The problem with choosing Vince Cable is he’s a man and the party has said how it wants to change its all white man Commons parliamentary party. People like Vince can still influence outside of the Commons.

    Sarah is an accountant too and I know from my own experience of financial advice that that sort of work can give you depth when it comes to budgetary and economic matters.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland – there were eight applications from candidates.

  • I have already been once to Richmond and will go again when i can. Let us get 100% in support of Sarah, either on the ground, telephone or donating. We can do this 🙂 and see our 9th MP very soon

  • Andrew McCaig 31st Oct '16 - 2:49pm

    In 2010 I doubt if it is a coincidence that in 2010 one of the few seats we lost was against a candidate with huge personal wealth and a celebrity status completely out of proportion to his actual achievements in life… I suspect that in 2015 when the spending limits were increased Goldsmith was able to use his personal wealth to even better effect.

    For many decades the Goldsmith clan have been using their wealth to influence people in a range of directions, some beneficial (Environmental issues, perhaps), some not (Leaving the EU). It is a distortion of democracy,and Liberal Democrats should be condemning that along with the continuing disproportionate influence of Eton College on the lives of all of us.

    I don’t have a big problem with inherited wealth (although it should be highly taxed) until people start using it to cement their privileged position and influence the political direction of the country to the detriment of others… Then I do…

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 31st Oct '16 - 3:02pm

    Mary Reid, thank you for clarifying that Sarah was selected from eight potential candidates. That information was quite difficult to find, and it would probably have been better if it had been made more public. People would be less likely to cast doubt on whether Sarah is the right candidate if they realised that she was selected from quite a large number of applicants.

  • Sue Sutherland 31st Oct '16 - 3:32pm

    Andrew McCaig great response to Catherine Jane Crosland, who seems to mistrust members of our party more than Zac Goldsmith. Of course the point is that the Goldsmiths have been part of the conspiracy against the EU in the right wing papers which has encouraged people to vote Leave in the Referendum, believing that their own meagre fortunes would not be adversely affected by Brexit.
    Some people rise above their wealth, empathising with the less fortunate, but most are not known for their reputation as benefactors. If we are to ever achieve the sort of Lib Dem society we want we have to face up to this problem because otherwise too many people are going to be trapped by poverty, ignorance and ill health to ever achieve their true potential.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 31st Oct '16 - 3:47pm

    Sue Sutherland, I think you rather misunderstood my remarks. I was really just trying to be fair. Zac Goldsmith happened to inherit a vast amount of wealth, and this was obviously not his fault. Its true that there may be times when it is relevant to mention his wealth. As you say, he does not have to worry about the economic effects of Brexit in the way most people do. But I feel that we should avoid personal attacks.

  • Peter Watson 31st Oct '16 - 4:15pm

    @Catherine Jane Crosland “I was really just trying to be fair. Zac Goldsmith happened to inherit a vast amount of wealth, and this was obviously not his fault.”
    I agree with you. Goldsmith should be judged by what he does with his wealth, not the fact that he has it.
    Lib Dem opponents have already picked up on this relatively nasty and personal line of attack (http://order-order.com/2016/10/31/libdems-make-zacs-wealth/) which might also require the party to keep wealthy Lib Dems (Nick Clegg hardly dragged himself out of poverty) away from the constituency in order to avoid accusations of hypocrisy or envy.

  • John Littler 31st Oct '16 - 4:24pm

    I don’t see a problem in pointing out that Goldsmith can easily afford Brexit without any consequences. Most people will lose out over the next decade and cannot.

  • Zack Polanski 31st Oct '16 - 4:31pm

    8 candidates but only 1 made it through the shortlisting committee.

    Which is interesting to me as that’s the same shortlist committee that blocked me from even standing earlier in the year for the snap general election.


    I wish Sarah luck. She didn’t choose these processes but I think the party could do with a lot more transparency.

  • Andrew McCaig 31st Oct '16 - 5:11pm

    Nick Clegg hardly compares with Zac Goldsmith in wealth terms!

    And if anyone wants to know what truly nasty campaigning means, just read the comments under that Guido Fawkes article, which just about sums up the readers and author of that particular blog…

  • Andrew McCaig 31st Oct '16 - 5:16pm


    I agree actually.. But lets wait a month and a day or two before engaging in such an internal debate

  • Peter Watson 31st Oct '16 - 6:46pm

    @Andrew McCaig “Nick Clegg hardly compares with Zac Goldsmith in wealth terms!”
    But from where many of us sit and look up (though perhaps not in Richmond Park!), family wealth in the millions and the billions looks pretty much the same.

  • @ Theakes

    “voters are not keen on that sort of thing (putting up well known names), remember the Leyton by election of 1964 for one, Winchester in 1997 for another.”

    I don’t remember the Leyton by-election of 1965. I assume you mean the Labour candidate Patrick Gordon Walker (who I have not heard of, but according to Wikipedia was Foreign Secretary after losing his seat in the 1964 general election). Winchester I do remember, but I don’t remember any main political party putting up a well-known name, as the three main candidates had all stood in the 1997 general election.

    As Liberal Democrats it is perfectly normal for us to question the process. I am very familiar with the old rules (2001, 2005, 2010), but I am not familiar with what was done after the referendum to put new candidates like Sarah in place. Also I do wonder how there could be eight applicants but only one person on the ballot paper, unless Mary is referring to the pre-by-election process. I also remember having “adoption meetings” before a general election where the local party “adopts” the PPC as the candidate. For a party that that values openness this process does not seem very open and has a veil of security.

  • Ruth Bright 31st Oct '16 - 8:02pm
  • Ruth Bright 31st Oct '16 - 8:03pm

    Sorry, I meant Zack.

  • The Leyton by-election of 1965 was the archetypal unnecessary election, the result of the elevation of the sitting MP to the House of Lords for the specific purpose of getting Patrick Gordon Walker (who had lost his seat in an infamous racist campaign by the local Tory candidate, who became known as a “Parliamentary leper”) back into the Commons. And that is probably why he lost. The Winchester by-election was also deemed unnecessary, being caused by the runner-up successfully challenging the result on a technicality, and losing overwhelmingly as a result.
    Richmond Park is also an unnecessary election, but in a different way. And again, there is a chance that the candidate considered to have caused it will be punished by the electorate.

  • @ Michael BG “I assume you mean the Labour candidate Patrick Gordon Walker (who I have not heard of, but according to Wikipedia was Foreign Secretary after losing his seat in the 1964 general election)”.

    That’s quite a salutary reminder for those of us who do remember Patrick Gordon Walker and who don’t need to look up Wikipedia. We were there at the time. I also remember the Rev Reginald Sorenson who was given a peerage to make way for PGW. Reg was a lovely old man who had been a Conscientious Objector in the First World War and was a friend of Sylvia Pankurst (the suffragette leader to our younger members without a handy wikiwotsit) . He used to organise receptions in the House for Amnesty and the Anti-Apartheid movement.

    Now it could be said all this shows how little some ‘modern’ Liberal Democrats know about political history – it might even explain their rather rootless attraction to Orange Bookism…… but I won’t say that because it would be churlish.

    I still maintain that all politicians ought to study history. Not only might they win a bit of dosh for charity on that ‘Pointless’ quiz show… but they might just avoid getting tied up as Blair did in the Iraq and Afghanistan wickedness and nonsense. They might also avoid the obvious pitfalls of entering a coalition without adequate thought and preparation as well as having an understanding of something they actually believe in.

    PS Blair, as in Anthony Charles Lynton Blair. Very posh…..educated at Fettes…. friend of the workers, Rupert Murdoch and PFI schemes….now nearly as rich as Goldsmith (for those without Wiki).

    End of rant about the lack of education of modern yooth….. as Sam Pepys would say…. and so to bed.

  • Paul Murray 1st Nov '16 - 7:05am

    Re. The Leyton by-election: the BBC Parliament Channel has shown the 1964 General Election programme a few times. It is both a brilliant piece of television and an important historical document. Inevitably the Conservative’s campaign in Smethwick was discussed at length. Jo Grimond’s comments about it to Richard Dimbleby were the highlight of the evening. Even after all these years, his words are resonant and meaningful. The other highlight was Dimbleby getting caught on camera eating a hot snack food which he called “pit-za” . He recommended that the viewers should try it.

  • David Evershed 1st Nov '16 - 11:02am

    David Raw

    I would suggest that Orange Bookism is not rootless but goes back as far as Gladstone, Liberal PM in the second half of the 19th century.

  • @ David Raw

    I wonder if you are one of those people who became active in the 60’s when they were young. I think I am knowledgeable about political history, but I don’t know the members of every UK Cabinet only the most famous ones. I take exception to even it being implied that I was an “Orange Booker”. (:

    @ David Evershed

    I would be interested in you providing evidence that Gladstone was a supporter of “Orange Bookism”. I think his land reforms for Ireland were the opposite as was the Railway Regulation Act 1844, which was introduced by Gladstone when he was President of the Board of Trade.

  • I am a Labour voter. I feel their decision to contest this seat is the wrong one- this is a chance to cut the Tory majority and defeat the UKIP endorsed candidate . Truss taking ages and clearly under pressure, to give only a mild statement supporting the rule of law, only reinforces the point that the Tories NEED to lose. Goldsmith is the Tory candidate…that is why they are not standing against him-make no mistake.

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