Ten questions about the Richmond Park by-election


1. What is the correct name for the constituency? That question we can answer. The constituency is called Richmond Park. But all the parties seem to refer to it locally as Richmond Park and North Kingston, because it is easy to forget that four of its wards lie within Kingston Borough rather than Richmond Borough.

2. How posh is Richmond Park? Well someone did have the task of delivering our tabloid to a certain Royal elector who actually lives inside the park – you can’t get much posher than that. But the constituency also includes council-owned estates and relatively modest housing in well-established communities, as well as large secluded private houses.  In Richmond itself the average house price is not far short of £900k.

3. Zac Goldsmith has resigned as an MP, as he had promised to do if the Government backed the expansion of Heathrow. Has he resigned from the Conservative party as well? No-one seems to know.

4. If re-elected what would the Conservatives consider a suitable period of purdah before admitting him back into the Parliamentary group again?

5. The website for the Richmond Park and North Kingston Conservatives still carries the strapline “Supporting Zac Goldsmith in the Richmond Park constituency”. What exactly does that mean?

6. The Executive Council of the local Conservative Association does explain that it supports the decision by the party’s national leadership not to field a candidate, and claims that “The Association and its resources will not play a part in this by-election.” Can we therefore assume that Goldsmith will not have access to all the local party’s data on voting intentions that would have been accumulated during his election campaigns and incumbency? Or to any of its office space or equipment? Or to its staff?

7. Why did Labour NEC ignore the very sensible suggestion from three of its senior MPs Clive Lewis , Lisa Nandy and Jonathan Reynolds that Labour should not contest the seat? As they said:

(Zac Goldmsith’s) claim that this is a referendum on Heathrow is absurd as his chief opponent also opposes a third runway. This is nothing but a vanity project and Labour should think carefully about playing a part in it.

8. Oddly enough it looks as though there may be two Conservative members contesting the election, both as Independents. The other one is prolific tweeter Fiona-Natasha Syms, who is pro-Heathrow (hat-tip to Mark Pack). So does this mean that Goldsmith’s attempt to turn this into a referendum on Heathrow will end up as yet another internal spat between two Tories?

9. UKIP has vowed not to field a candidate and has endorsed Goldsmith. Will this help or hinder his chances?

10. Finally, how can you help our outstanding candidate, Sarah Olney? That’s easy – click here.

* Mary Reid is a contributing editor on Lib Dem Voice. She was a councillor in Kingston upon Thames, where she is still very active with the local party, and is the Hon President of Kingston Lib Dems.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Gwyn Williams 31st Oct '16 - 2:25pm

    Incumbency not incumbancy

  • How can Goldsmith justify the expense to the public purse without fully distancing himself from the Tories. As things currently stand, he’d have made more of an anti-Conservative statement by resigning from the party and making a show of crossing the house.

    Instead, he’s charging the public for a publicity stunt. I hope it backfires on him, and to the benefit of his constituents and the country.

  • David Evershed 1st Nov '16 - 6:40pm

    Mary – excellent article. Finding the right questions is always a good starting point.

    Another question. Number 11.

    Sarah Olney is a long-standing supporter of the Liberal Democrats, and was motivated to join and become active in the party by Nick Clegg’s inspiring speech after the 2015 general election. Are the ‘conservative’ electors of Richmond similarly sympathetic to Nick Clegg and the coalition years?

  • Jennyfer Espie 3rd Nov '16 - 7:34am

    Good article, shame the photo shows the view towards Roehampton which is not in the constituency.

  • Alex Macfie 3rd Nov '16 - 3:47pm

    David Evershed: Does it matter? Sarah joined after the last election, so has no links with the party’s recent past.

  • Denis Loretto 10th Nov '16 - 10:20am

    Having spent a day canvassing in Richmond Park – in the Barnes area – I reckon our only hope is to concentrate on the European issue. Not only did I find quite a few voters who were not greatly engaged by the Heathrow issue but also several were in favour of the new runway. For those who are mainly motivated by anti Heathrow expansion how do we think we can outdo someone who has resigned in principle on that very issue? Zac Goldsmith is also a popular local representative. We will not get far in trying to rubbish him and his genuineness in standing as an Independent.

    What does produce an immediate positive response for us is to stress Lib Dem leadership of the campaign to keep as close as possible to Europe and ward off the “hard brexit ” option. I found several prepared to set aside normal party loyalties and use this vote for that purpose. One lady said she would vote for Sarah Olney but asked me not to put her down as an ongoing Lib Dem supporter.

    We must of course make it clear that we are against the Heathrow extension but otherwise forget about it as a campaigning priority.

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