Tight finish expected as Richmond Park by-election divides voters
The race for Richmond Park’s next MP is in full swing with two main policies emerging which could determine the outcome: Heathrow and Brexit.
Richmond Park and North Kingston has originally been a battle of two parties, Liberal Democrats and Conservatives.
The Conservatives won the seat in 2015, but with Zac Goldsmith’s recent resignation, it leaves the constituency without a Conservative candidate.
Sarah Olney, Liberal Democrat candidate, is hoping to capitalise on this opportunity.
Mr. Goldsmith hopes that his stance on the Heathrow expansion will persuade voters to continue supporting him as an independent.
He said: “I am asking you to send Heathrow and the government a strong message – via the ballot box – and to back me in this election and continue the fight for our community as an independent candidate.
“If I win, I will have a mandate to continue our energetic campaign. If I lose, Heathrow will declare a win. It is as simple as that.”
However, the Liberal Democrats are hopeful that their strong stance on Brexit will sway voters, with 70% of the constituency voting to remain in the EU referendum.
This is in stark contrast to Mr Goldsmith’s hard Brexit approach.
Liberal Democrats parliamentary candidate for Newbury and West Berkshire, Judith Bunting, has been on the campaign trail for the past few days and believes that they are converting voters.
“I’ve had Tories coming over saying they’re horrified by the fact that Zac Goldsmith campaigned for Brexit and I’ve had labour people saying that they would like to vote Labour but they know there is no point here,” she said.
Nick Pentney, a volunteer for Mrs Olney’s campaign in the Kingston office, recognises that Mr. Goldsmith was corrected to keep him promise and resign as MP.
But he claims that the message is getting across on doorsteps as voters are now switching to Liberal Democrats.
He said: “They recognise that re-electing him won’t send any kind of message to the government about Heathrow and about Brexit.
“But if they back the Lib Dems then they certainly will be sending that message.”
Elsewhere, it has been reported that UKIP and members of the Conservative party are endorsing Mr Goldsmith.
Labour frontbenchers Clive Lewis and Jonathan Reynolds have both previously suggested that their party didn’t contest the seat, believing the Lib Dems could reduce Theresa May’s Commons majority.
However, it was ultimately decided that Christian Wolmar would stand in the by-election.
These moves underline the deep division within the political parties, which means the by-election is certainly set to be a close, two-horse race.
Registration closes at midnight on Tuesday 15th November and voting takes place on Thursday 1st December.
The following candidates (ordered alphabetically by surname) have already announced their intention to run:
Zac Goldsmith, Independent
Howling Laud Hope, The Official Monster Raving Loony Party
Maharaja Jammu and Kashmir, One Love Party
Sarah Olney, Liberal Democrats
Dominic Francis Stockford, Christian Peoples Alliance
Fiona Natasha Syms, Independent
Christian Wolmar, Labour Party