The most pointless by-election in recent history is taking place today in Richmond Park. Zac Goldsmth, who was Conservative MP for the constituency, resigned from Parliament in order to demonstrate how cross he was about plans to expand Heathrow Airport. He is standing in the by-election as an independent who is against a third runway at Heathrow. Neither the Conservative Party nor Ukip is fielding a candidate. That leaves the Liberal Democrats, Labour and the usual by-election odd balls as Mr Goldsmith’s opponents. All the candidates oppose the third runway, so that isn’t really an issue.
Mr Goldsmith opposes our membership of the EU. His former constituents voted overwhelmingly in the referendum to remain in the EU. The Liberal Democrat candidate, Sarah Olney, announced (just before the campaign began), as any decent loser should, that she respected the electorate’s decision on Brexit and would not seek to overturn it. But then the leaders of her party leant heavily on her and she agreed to change her tune. Her present policy, if elected, is to do all in her power to prevent our departure from the EU. The by-election, she proclaims, is all about Brexit. It is a sort of mini second referendum. Someone called Farron, who has apparently taken over from Clegg as leader of the Liberal Democrats, has arranged for the poor people of Richmond to be inundated from dawn to dusk with Liberal Democrat activists all asserting that a vote for Ms Olney will overturn the referendum result and save us from the misery of no longer being ruled by bureaucrats in Brussels.
The Labour candidate, I should mention, has no chance of doing more than saving his deposit. So the battle is between Mr Goldsmith, the anti-Heathrow expansion and pro-Brexit candidate and Ms Olney, the anti-Heathrow expansion and pro-EU candidate. 70% of those of the people of Richmond who voted in the referendum voted to remain in the EU. Of course, a few of them will have changed their minds about it now that they have seen that the referendum result does not seem to have sparked World War III. But the vast majority will still be remainers.What is the only major issue between the two candidates? It is whether the referendum result should be overturned. Ms Olney and the people of Richmond think it should be. Mr Goldsmith thinks it should not be. It would surely be amazing if all those Richmond remainers decided to send Mr Goldsmith back to the House of Commons.
And yet there does seem to be a faint chance, that despite his idiocy in forcing the pointless by-election, Mr Goldsmith may win. What fun we beastly Brexiters would have were that to happen. What on earth would be the point, we would screech (I think we do screech – or so my remainer friends tell me), in having a second national referendum if the mini one held in the most pro-EU constituency in the country confirmed the original result?
Still, the odds must be on Ms Olney winning and then she and this Farron chap can do the screeching. Can’t you just hear them? “The people of Richmond have spoken, the referendum result is no longer valid, we must stay in the EU.”
Goodness, what a nonsense all this is. And, to answer the question posed in the title to this piece: no, I shan’t stay up until 2.30 a.m. or later to hear the result.