My learned colleague Richard Morris has been banging on about this for as long as I’ve been reading his work (well near enough) but what would be a very interesting by-election could happen in the autumn of 2014. Richmond Park is your typical two-horse race in the South between the Tories and the Lib Dems. Both parties can win it on a good day with a strong campaign. Both therefore can of course lose it on the exact opposite. It is the type of seat that the Lib Dems must at the very least stay competitive in come 2015 if they aren’t be just become a party who defends seats.
Well after 13 years of Lib Dem occupation, the Tories came in and won it in 2010 with Zac Goldsmith being elected MP for the constituency. He has been relatively quiet in office, however he has really been a strong constituency MP, with everything you ever hear from him being about local issues. The main focus of that has been on Heathrow Airport and its possible expansion. To cut a long-story short, he’s against it, dead against it and if it becomes government policy he was reiterated that he’ll stand down and trigger a by-election.
This morning the airport commission unveiled three options regarding airport expansion and two of them are at Heathrow, the other being at Gatwick. The ‘Boris Island’ scheme that is certainly not playing well in my neck of the wood was not as option, however the aforementioned airport commission will decide next summer whether that is indeed a viable option. If it does not then essentially they are green lighting Heathrow expansion and should the government make it policy that the preferred option is to expand Heathrow then Goldsmith will resign.
The most interesting question though about all this is would Goldsmith run again as the Tory candidate, but resign on principle so his constituents knew he is against this polixcy and would be an active voice against said policy if they reelected him? Would Goldsmith run as an independent ‘Against Heathrow Airport Expansion’ candidate? Would the Tories even place Boris in that seat to give him a route back into the House of Commons?
By-elections are notoriously harder to predict than regular elections because parties can concentrate on issues more without the national narrative getting in the way. Also by-elections lead to those with a great ground game doing better than they would normally because feet on the ground really does help with these things.
A by-election in the autumn in Richmond Park would be fascinating for all the politico geeks out there as there would be so many questions going into it and arguably very few answers off the back of it. Should government policy be that Heathrow should get bigger, then I firmly predict two things, firstly that the coffers of all Richmond Park sandwich shops, coffee places and public houses will go up significantly for a four-week period as press and activists descend into the area and secondly that A View From Ham Common’s readership will go up mightily.
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