Zac Goldsmith triggers the Richmond Park By-Election
Zac Goldsmith, the Conservative MP for Richmond Park
and recent candidate for the office of London Mayor, has resigned his seat following the approved third runway at Heathrow Airport. He intends to stand in the subsequent by-election as an independent. The Prime Minister has decided to not field a Conservative candidate against him.
Liberal Democrat Prospects
The electoral history of Richmond Park (which I will outline below) indicates that the two frontrunners in this by-election will be Zac Goldsmith and the Liberal Democrat candidate (unless they too stand aside).
Does the Witney by-election indicate a Liberal Democrat win?
In the recent Witney by-election
the Liberal Democrats achieved a 19.3% swing against the Conservatives. For them to win Richmond Park, they need a 19.5% swing. So a win is certainly within reach.
From a Liberal Democrat perspective this by-election could not be in a better constituency. Here is why:
1. Richmond Park has been a Liberal Democrat seat before.
2. Richmond-upon-Thames voted to remain in the European Union 69% to 31%. Since Zac Goldsmith supported a leave vote, the Liberal Democrats have a golden opportunity to attract these voters to their cause.
(But of course, by-elections often produce unpredictable results so at this stage it is all to play for.)
Richmond Park Electoral History
Richmond Park was created from the constituencies of "Richmond and Barnes" and "Kingston upon Thames". Both of these seats were held by Conservatives, although they both had a substantial Liberal vote. When Richmond and Barnes was created in 1983, the Liberals were only 74 votes behind the Conservatives. They fell back in 1987 and again in 1992.
In 1997, Richmond Park was fought for the first time. Like many other Conservative-Liberal Democrat marginals in 1997, the Liberal Democrats benefited greatly from tactical voting which allowed them to defeat the Conservatives. They increased their majority in 2001, but it decreased slightly in 2005. The Conservatives gained the seat in 2010 when the Liberal Democrat share of the vote fell back slightly and the Conservative vote surged. In 2015, there was a 16% swing from the Liberal Democrats to the Conservatives who currently have a 23,000 majority.