What on earth is the point of Zac Goldsmith’s resignation as MP for Richmond Park?
It seems he is very cross about the government opting for a third runway at Heathrow (which may or may not appear in about twenty years). The reason for his fury, entirely understandable, is that his constituents may have even more ‘planes flying over them (in twenty years’ time) than they do now. He apparently thinks he can achieve something by causing a by-election in Richmond in which he will stand as an independent.
One thing we can guarantee is that no serious candidate in the by-election will support a third runway at Heathrow (the Conservatives will not field a candidate at all but, if they did, the candidate would be bound to oppose the third runway). That, therefore, will not be an issue in the election. Everyone will agree that there should be no third runway.
So, what will be the main issue in the by-election?
The answer is obvious. The people of Richmond voted overwhelmingly in the referendum for Remain. Their MP, one Zac Goldsmith, has always been bitterly opposed to our membership of the EU. The battle will be between Mr Goldsmith and the Liberal Democrat candidate. So the issue will be “should we now decide Brexit was a bad idea and get back in bed with the EU?”.
The existing Lib Dem candidate in Richmond posted an article on her website about a fortnight ago in which she said the will of the people as expressed in the referendum should be honoured, there should not be another referendum. That is contrary to Liberal Democrat policy. Surprise, surprise, she has now deleted her website (not just the article). But it is probably too late to save her. My guess is that she will be replaced, perhaps by Sir Vince Cable, so that the Lib Dems can say that the by-election is to be fought on the question of whether there should be a second referendum and that a Lib Dem victory will demonstrate that the country has changed its mind about Brexit.
That, of course, is nonsense. 72% of the people of Richmond voted to stay in the EU in the referendum. It must be likely that more than 50% of them will favour a second referendum. If they all rush to vote Lib Dem that will, obviously, tell us nothing at all about the views of the majority in the country who voted for Brexit. But Mr Clegg and whoever the new Lib Dem leader is (sorry, I can’t remember his name) will rush to the radio and television studios to proclaim that the people of Richmond have spoken for Britain and we must now have a second referendum. The BBC and many serious journalists will go along with the nonsense. And, more importantly perhaps, all those MPs and peers who are longing for an excuse to overturn the referendum result will convince themselves that Richmond gives them a mandate.
What is the point of Zac Goldsmith’s resignation? I really don’t know. He has engineered an election in which every candidate will agree on Heathrow but the two main candidates will disagree on Europe. His constituents, or the vast majority of them, are desperate to stay in the EU. He will campaign to come out. His opponent will campaign to stay in. The result is a foregone conclusion: the Lib Dem will win and Goldsmith’s political career will be at an end.
What an extraordinarily foolish man.