2nd Nov 2016
Zac Goldsmith has announced he will resign as a Conservative MP and stand again as an independent, following the UK Government’s support for a third runway at Heathrow Airport. This fulfils a long-standing pledge by the MP to resign his seat if the Conservatives backed a third runway.
It may be difficult for him to keep the campaign narrowly on the issue of the third runway, however. His Richmond Park constituency voted overwhelmingly for Remain in the EU referendum vote in June, while Goldsmith himself was an advocate for Leave.
The Liberal Democrats have sought to capitalise on this by seeking to make the campaign a vote on Brexit. Some leading figures in the Labour party have even called for Labour to stand aside to allow the Liberal Democrats a clear run, while others such as Green MP Caroline Lucas have called for a local primary to be held to find a common pro-Remain candidate. Neither effort looks likely to succeed, meaning that the Liberal Democrats will have to hope that they gain the sort of swing seen in the recent Witney by-election.
Zac Goldsmith will be seeking to discourage any perception that the by-election is about Brexit, but his cause may not have been helped by UKIP announcing that they will not stand in the constituency in order to avoid the possibility of an anti-Brexit candidate winning.