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#YourVoice with Tania Mathias MP: Putting the record straight

James Giles

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I wasn’t at all surprised when Zac Goldsmith resigned on principle over the Government’s Heathrow decision.  He had always said he would, and having worked alongside him both as a local Councillor and as an MP, I know he’s the kind of politician who keeps his word. At a time when people’s anger towards politicians is alarming high, that really matters.

The by-election is happening as a direct consequence of the Government deciding, wrongly, to give the green light Heathrow expansion. It is an opportunity for the whole community to rally together and say ‘no’.

But as this crucial by-election unfolds, I have been appalled by the tone of the Lib Dem campaign against him.

I knew that the Lib Dems would try to capitalise on the strong Remain vote in Richmond and Kingston, and they are of course entitled to do so. But the manner in which they are doing so is not only desperate, it is wrong.

I was a firm supporter of the Remain campaign and was dismayed by the result of the referendum.  Zac and I voted differently. We cast our votes in what we both thought was the best interests of our country.

But in their efforts to unseat Zac they have deliberately misrepresented him. In addition to portraying Zac as a ‘hard Brexit’, UKIP candidate (because UKIP aren’t fielding a candidate in a seat where they have no real support), the Lib Dem candidate signed a letter last week stating that Zac is “the second most anti-Europe MP in Parliament”.

This is absurd. To put it in context, around 150 MPs campaigned actively for Brexit. Zac was not one of them.

I know from first-hand experience that Zac has been a thoughtful and moderating influence on the debate.  He led a group of 36 Conservative MPs in calls on the Prime Minister to safeguard EU environment laws. He was one of just two Conservative MPs to vote with Labour to protect the rights of EU citizens living in the UK. I was the other one. That was his last vote in Parliament before resigning. That is not ‘hard Brexit’.

The truth is, an overwhelming majority of MPs from all major parties, including many who passionately campaigned for Remain, have accepted the verdict of the British people and will not attempt to block it. They know that to do so would risk inflaming anger and giving rise to the kind of extreme politics that is surging out of control right across the continent, and in America.

Ironically, just two weeks ago, the Lib Dem candidate in this by-election would have agreed with that. She wrote; “Britain is leaving the EU. I accept that. I don’t think we should re-run the referendum. I think we should stick to the course that has been decided.” She also said she would not vote against Article 50.

This is a referendum on Heathrow. But in fact it is more than that. Colleagues from right across the political spectrum respect and admire Zac for keeping his word, for his environmental leadership, for his independent-minded approach to politics. They, like me are looking forward to working with him again. This is your chance to return to parliament a hugely effective and honest MP, and a real champion for the community.

Tania Mathias MP, Twickenham

James Giles is the Editor of the Kingston Enquirer, covering local news and events in Kingston, New Malden, Surbiton, Tolworth and Chessington.

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#RichmondPark

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

James Giles

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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.

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