Friday, 2 December 2016

Richmond Park By-election: Congratulations to the Lib-Dems

This morning we heard the news that Liberal Democrat Sarah Olney had beaten Zack Goldsmith in the Richmond Park by-election which the latter had instigated over the government's decision to favor a third runway at Heathrow.  I, as you can imagine, am nothing short of thrilled that the Lib Dems won, as they are, I believe, the progressive and internationalist voice in British politics today.

 I am also very pleased that the other internationalist potential contestants, most notably the Greens, decided not to contest the election and endorsed the Liberal Democrats. Clearly, Zack Goldsmith deserved to be defeated as he had supported Brexit while his constituents voted overwhelmingly against it but most notably his unsuccessful mayoral campaign against Labour candidate Sadiq Khan did, it seems, play the religious card and its reputation as a highly amoral and reckless (given the current political climate, particularly for members of the islamic community in the West) campaign does seem to be well founded.  Thus, I am not sorry that he lost his seat.

Zack Goldsmith claimed that the by-election was about opposition to a third runway at Heathrow but it must be said that none of the candidates running in the by-election actually supported the government's plans for Heathrow.  The Conservatives (Zack standing as an independent)  did not even field a candidate undoubtedly because they knew that the Tory/pro-Brexit vote would be split and that the Lib-Dems would thus win by a huge landslide which they were clearly sufficiently scared about.  UKIP did not field a candidate either and of course, endorsed Zack.  Guys, there is no doubt that this was not a referendum on the expansion of Heathrow but on Brexit, and the Tories knew it as much as UKIP and Greens did.  Perhaps more profoundly, it was a contest between regressive nationalism and progressive internationalism.  

So what does the result mean?  The result is no doubt a statement from the people of Richmond, that the Tories can no longer count their remain-supporting urban bourgeois heartlands, at least in London, as safe territory anymore while they follow the path of the Nationalist populism which has swept across the western world.  It is a sign that, if the Tories abandon economic pragmatism in favor of such nationalism, then such voters may well abandon them.  If I were a Tory, I would be shaking in my boots.

And what about Labour? Unlike other parties on their half of the political spectrum, they decided not to pull out of the contest and instead fielded a candidate.  It shows that Labour under Corbyn, just like during the referendum, is only so committed to the remain cause and to joining the internationalist side of the ideological struggle across the western world.  In short, during both the referendum campaign and this by-election, the Lib-Dems put their heart and soul into the fight while have not done the same.  Now, of course, were Labour and not the Lib-Dems the main opposition to the Tories in this particular constituency, Labour may well have embodied progressive internationalism but the point is that this is an example of how shallow their commitment to such a cause seems, in my view.

Let's hope that this is not merely a fluke but a genuine trend.  If the Lib-Dems can win in hitherto Tory Richmond, then why not in Fulham or Kensington and Chelsea? I would also like to add that I would not be too sad if the Lib-Dems were to replace Labour as the main anti-Tory/UKIP party and I wish them every success in doing so.  I would however prefer it if they didn't do too well in the constituency where I am right now (Ceredigion) as they are the main opposition to Plaid, who I support and have even become a member of.  Either way, congratulations Sarah Olney and the Lib-Dems and good luck in the journey ahead.

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