AN ANTI-BREXIT, pro-EU, Liberal Democrat produced a spectacular win in the Richmond Park byelection to take the old seat of Tory aristocrat Zac Goldsmith.
Sarah Olney, a 39-year-old local accountant with little political experience, overturned Goldsmith’s 23,000 majority to take back the seat for the Lib Dems, who have been in the electoral wilderness since selling their soul to the Conservatives in 2010.
Goldsmith, who ran for London mayor in an extraordinary race-baiting campaign, quit the seat he had held for six years in protest over the government’s support of a third runway at Heathrow airport, pledging to run as an independent instead.
But his self-described principled stand quickly took a back seat to Olney’s deft transformation of the byelection into a mini-referendum on Theresa May’s somewhat dazed Brexit policy, arguing that a constituency that broadly voted to Remain should have a pro-EU MP.
“Richmond Park was full of people like me, who felt the country was going wrong, that the politics of anger and division were on the rise, that the liberal, tolerant values we took for granted were under threat,” said Olney in her victory speech.
“Today we have said no. We will defend the Britain we love. We will stand up for the open, tolerant Britain we believe in.”
The bizarre byelection saw the Tories and UKIP field no candidates in order to stand behind Goldsmith’s independent campaign, while Labour’s entrant won just 1,515 votes and lost his deposit.