Connect with us


Your Voice: A vote against Zac Goldsmith is a vote against extreme Brexit

Labour should not contest the Richmond byelection. Instead, it should give the Lib Dems a clear run to beat the constituency’s hard Brexit MP

Polly Toynbee




Powered by Goldsmith stands down in Richmond Park to protest against the Heathrow decision, just as he said he would. A man of honour keeping his promise? That’s not how he may emerge on byelection polling day.

Yet again, this spoiled nonentity is cosseted by his party: though he stands as an “independent”, the Conservatives will try to save his bacon by setting no candidate against him, to avoid splitting their vote. That makes it harder for the Liberal Democrats to snatch back this seat – but by no means unlikely, after their strong showing in Witney.

There have rarely been so many good reasons for expelling an MP – and Richmond Park might just do it. Start with his character. In his ill-judged London mayoral campaign against Sadiq Khan, Goldsmith hired toxic spin-master Lynton Crosby to help him descend to the lowest anti-Muslim racism. His lacklustre performance was only memorable for his repeated smears alleging Khan had “given platforms, oxygen and even cover – over and over and over again – to those who seek to do our police and capital harm”. He invented nonexistent “links” to fanatics, claiming Khan “repeatedly legitimised those with extremist views”, as he wrote in the Mail on Sunday.

His absurd claim that Khan would be Jeremy Corbyn’s “man in London” as a leftist puppet of his party’s leader was the normal politics: after all, Corbyn is Labour leader, later claiming Khan’s victory as his own success.

What was shockingly abnormal was Goldsmith’s attempt to split London’s voters along hyper-sensitive racial and religious lines. His campaign literature, sent to Indians, Tamils and Sikhs, suggested that Khan, a Muslim of Pakistani descent, would not “stand up” for them as mayor. Farcically offensive to all communities, he even suggested Khan would raise taxes on their family jewellery, assuming gold is what motivates non-Muslims. Goldsmith repeatedly used the word “radical” about Khan, with clear connotations of “radicalised”.

But he lost. London rejected him and in electing its first Muslim mayor showed it had no truck with such filth. Now Richmond Park must do the same as a lesson to any politician tempted to lever themselves up through racism.

That is the prime reason why Labour MP Lisa Nandy has called for her party not to put up a candidate, giving the Lib Dems a clear run to unite all those against Goldsmith. Clive Lewis, from the Corbyn wing of Labour, and Jonathan Reynolds, from the non-Corbyn wing, join her in calling on Labour to stand back.

They are right. This byelection will not be about Heathrow: all candidates will be equally opposed. It will be about Goldsmith’s bad character – but it will also be about the great crisis facing the country. Goldsmith, following in the footsteps of his father, who started the rabid anti-EU referendum campaign, is for a hard Brexit, wrenching us away as brutally and damagingly as possible.

As the risks become real, with the pound plunging, food and petrol prices set to rise next year and damaging consequences for industry and finance beginning to emerge, polls suggest opinion is already shifting. The good growth figures announced today are only for services, while manufacturing, industry, agriculture and construction all shrank again. Controlling immigration matters to most people, but not at any economic price. If the price turns out to be too high, staying in the single market will matter more.

Richmond Park voted remain by 70%, so there is no better place to make that case and surely no better candidate to beat than hard Brexiteer Goldsmith.

Will Labour stand back? Not a chance. There are good reasons why Labour detests the Lib Dems for what they did in the coalition. Old rivalries locally die hard: Lib Dems often fight dirty on the ground.

But for a host of bad old tribal reasons, the Nandy, Lewis, Reynolds idea isn’t supported even by Labour MPs who say they back electoral reform and the great cultural shift proportional representation implies.

Ask why not and they say, “It’d look like a back-room stitch-up”, “We must give voters a chance to vote Labour”, “We’d look weak if we didn’t stand”, “This would set a bad precedent for other seats”, “Our local councillors in the area wouldn’t agree”, “The NEC won’t have it” and so on. The result will be yet another humiliating hammering for Labour in a seat it could never win, but hey, never mind.

Imagine instead Corbyn saying something like this: “There are times when politicians should put country above party, and this is one of them. First we must show the door to the cynical racism of people like Goldsmith. Second, we must protect Britain from the ideological fanatics who want to destroy our economy by taking us out of the single market, whatever damage that does. Third, we have a rotten electoral system, with an unjust first-past-the-post system that forces tactical voting on us.

“Let this byelection be an expression too of the need to change a system that denies people the right to form and vote for parties of their choice. We don’t forgive the Liberal Democrats for their collusion in cuts that impoverished the most vulnerable and devastated public services. But there are times when it is right for a party to stand back and raise our sights to Britain’s future. We call on the voters of Richmond Park to make their mark, expel a dishonourable man from politics and vote against all extreme Brexiteers who risk irreparable damage to the country.”

Don’t hold your breath. Corbyn doesn’t believe in electoral reform and nor does he cleave to the single market. Though no doubt he reviles Goldsmith’s racism, he doesn’t detest it quite enough to lend a hand to oust him. Gentler, kinder politics doesn’t mean alliances, not even progressive ones.

Your Voice article by Polly Toynbee for the Guardian.

Polly Toynbee is a columnist for the Guardian. She was formerly BBC social affairs editor, columnist and associate editor of the Independent, co-editor of the Washington Monthly and a reporter and feature writer for the Observer


Lib Dems pull off shock victory in Richmond Park by-election as Zac is thrown out

James Giles




A ‘shockwave to Downing Street’ has, last night, been pulled off by the Liberal Democrats, with Sarah Olney defeating Zac Goldsmith in the Richmond Park by-election.

Lib Dem challenger Ms Olney overturned Mr Goldsmith’s 23,015 majority to win by 1,872 votes. The result saw Ms Olney poll 20,510 votes to Mr Goldsmith’s 18,638, on a turnout of 41,367, or 53.6 per cent. The 21.74 per cent swing to the Lib Dems from Mr Goldsmith topped the 19.3 per cent swing the Lib Dems achieved from the Tories in the Witney by-election.

A Green Party spokesperson said: “The Green Party’s decision to stand down and the huge drop in the Labour Party vote show that people will vote tactically. It proves that there is a huge appetite and a need for proportional representation so that people can express a real preference at elections. In Sarah Olney, we now have an MP who will push for the electoral reform that we so urgently need. We look forward to working with the Liberal Democrats, Women’s Equality Party and the Labour Party in a Progressive Alliance for the 2018 local elections and the next General Election.”


Ms Olney said the shock victory was a rejection of the “Ukip vision” of Britain, and the politics of “anger and division”.

In her victory speech, she said: “The people of Richmond Park and North Kingston have sent a shockwave through this Conservative Brexit government, and our message is clear: we do not want a hard Brexit. We do not want to be pulled out of the single market, and we will not let intolerance, division and fear win.”

In a brief acknowledgement of the result, a clearly downcast Mr Goldsmith said: “This by-election that we have just had was not a political calculation, it was a promise that I made and it was a promise that I kept.”

Labour’s Christian Wolmar lost his deposit as he trailed a distant third with 1,515 votes, losing 8% of the Labour vote compared to 2015.

A Conservative Party spokesman said the result would make no difference to Brexit plans, stating: “This result doesn’t change anything. The Government remains committed to leaving the European Union and triggering Article 50 by the end of March next year. Commiserations to Zac Goldsmith on his defeat. We are sorry that he is no longer in the House of Commons.”

Lib Dem leader Tim Farron said: “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.

“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.

Mr Wolmar said voters had disliked Mr Goldsmith’s “ghastly, disgusting” bid to be London Mayor in which Labour accused him of running a racist campaign against Sadiq Khan.

Continue Reading