Heathrow and Richmond

What’s the difference between HS2 and Heathrow expansion? One is an expensive and environmentally disastrous project that contributes little towards Britain’s transport needs, and the other is a railway line.

I have nothing more to say about Heathrow; I’ve blogged about it before, and my views haven’t changed.

The Richmond by-election, through, is something else. On the surface, it looks bizarre. The sitting Tory MP Zac Goldsmith resigns his seat to fight it as an independent in protest to the Heathrow decision, but the Tory party aren’t putting up a candidate to oppose him, giving him a clear run against the Liberal Democrat challenger. What is going on here?

My best guess is that Theresa May fears a Liberal Democrat revival far more than she fears disloyalty and division within her own party. Richmond is a Liberal Democrat target seat; they held the seat up to the 2010 general election, and will win on the sort of swing we saw in Witney. Richmond is on the doorstep of the London-based media, and a LibDem victory will put the parry and their policies centre stage.

It’s true that a Tory challenger to the disloyal former MP will split the vote and hand the LibDems almost certain victory, so there is a certain tactical logic here. It’s not a safe seat like Clacton. But it does send the message that defying the party won’t be punished that severely. Will that be a decision Theresa May will end up regretting?

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4 Responses to Heathrow and Richmond

  1. ard sloc says:

    I believe, and presumably May believes, that the local Tories are united behind Goldsmith so that an “official” Conservative flown-in would get derisive support This makes Richmond a rather special case. But it does, as you say, set a precedent.

  2. Tim Hall says:

    That’s a good point; if the official Tory candidate comes a very poor third, it won’t look good.

  3. I think it’s true that a Tory candidate would split the Conservative vote and almost certainly give the seat the the Lib Dems. May will be thinking, better to have a Tory-leaning independent in the house who will vote with her on everything (except Heathrow) than a Lib Dem voting (mostly) in opposition.

    There was talk by Labour yesterday that they wouldn’t field a candidate for similar reasons — to avoid splitting the vote and maximise the chance of a Lib Dem victory. But it’s now looking like that won’t happen, which is a shame — as a Labour supporter, I would much rather have a Lib Dem in the house than Zac Goldsmith.

  4. Tim Hall says:

    And the latest development is UKIP declaring they’re not putting up a candidate and telling their supporters to vote for Zac Goldsmith.