Article 50, Brexit, by election, campaign, Christian Wolmar, Conservative, EU referendum, Labour, Liberal Democrats, propaganda, Richmond Park, Sarah Olney, spin, Tim Farron, Tories, Tory, Zac Goldsmith
Of course, it isn’t very pleasant – but then, Liberal Democrats aren’t.
Party supporters flooded into Richmond Park, making nearly 100,000 attempts to speak to the constituency’s 82,500 voters, and stuffing their letterboxes with pamphlets.
Many constituents said they had been annoyed by the bombardment of Lib Dem propaganda.
The Liberal Democrats had two advantages in any case: Firstly, Richmond Park had been a Lib Dem seat until 2010, so voters had a natural inclination in their direction. And the constituency had voted Remain in the EU referendum, with 72 per cent of voters opposing Brexit.
Party campaigning was therefore focused on a promise to oppose Tory plans to quit the EU, with Ms Olney vowing to vote against any move to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty that might be put through Parliament.
Where does that leave Labour?
Many commentators will want to assure you that this is evidence of Labour’s disappearance from the political mainstream. You’ll see it in all the newspapers that are run by right-wing businessmen who want you to vote in their best interests.
Tim Farron, leader of the Liberal Democrats, came up with this scurrilous nonsense in his comments to the BBC: “Clearly a concern to voters was they desperately wanted a moderate, decent alternative to the Tories now Labour has shuffled off the main stage.”
Again, this is a comment from a man with a vested – indeed, desperate, considering the Liberal Democrats now have a grand total of nine MPs – interest in talking down the Labour Party.
Hopefully his comments will come as a sharp reminder to those within Labour who said that party should not field a candidate, that it had a duty to do so – and that failing to do so would have worsened the criticism from opponents like the schoolboyish Farron.
Clive Lewis, Lisa Nandy and Jonathan Reynolds had argued that Labour had little chance of winning in Richmond Park and should not field a candidate, but This Writer agrees with Peter Edwards of LabourList.
He wrote: “Avoiding the fight entirely would have resonated around the country. Labour needs to show people who struggle under the oppressive and unjust weight of a Tory government that it is fighting for them, even when its chances of success are slim to minuscule.”
Quite correct. Labour’s position on Brexit – that the EU referendum is done, the people have spoken, and we have to get the best out of it that we can – was never going to be popular in Richmond.
But Labour had to be there to show that the party opposes – in all parts of the UK – the dangerous right-wing policies of Zac Goldsmith and, until the dissolution of the Tory-Lib Dem coalition, Tim Farron; policies that led to the death of a man in freezing Birmingham earlier this week.
And after Mr Goldsmith’s disgustingly racist campaign to be London Mayor, how would it have looked if Labour had not fielded a candidate against him? The party would have been accused of backing away from the fight or – worse – condoning the racism employed by the Goldsmith campaign.
This is a tricky time for Labour.
The party has a hugely popular leader who has, at long last, put forward policies that a majority of the public support.
The Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats, UKIP, the SNP and most of the people you’ll see on the BBC’s Question Time are terrified of this.
So their strategy is to starve Labour of the oxygen of publicity by putting forward warped claims about the party and denying it the chance to respond.
Notice, for example, that there is no comment from a Labour representative in the BBC’s article, quoted below.
That is not an accident.
These so-called Liberals and Tories and their allies in the media will spin you into voting for another extreme right-wing government if they possibly can.
The Liberal Democrats have caused a major upset in the Richmond Park by-election, overturning a 23,015 majority to oust ex-Tory MP Zac Goldsmith.
Mr Goldsmith stood as an independent after leaving the Conservative Party in protest at the government’s decision to back a third Heathrow runway.
But Lib Dem Sarah Olney, who is also opposed to Heathrow expansion, fought the campaign on the issue of Brexit.
Labour’s Christian Wolmar lost his £500 deposit as he trailed a distant third.
Ms Olney polled 20,510 votes to Mr Goldsmith’s 18,638.
The Conservative Party, UK Independence Party and Green Party did not field candidates.
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