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Conservatives humiliated in Richmond - but socialist voice needed
Chris Newby, Socialist Party London
Zac Goldsmith's humiliating defeat in the Richmond Park byelection was equally a defeat for Theresa May and the Tories. Her already weak government has seen its majority cut to 13.
Goldsmith stood down as a Tory MP following the government's decision to back a third runway at Heathrow. Although Goldsmith was nominally standing as an independent, the Tories didn't stand a candidate against him.
He was clearly still seen as a Tory, and specifically an anti-EU Tory. The Lib Dem Sarah Olney, seen as the main Remain candidate, managed to overturn a 23,015-vote majority to win the seat.
Much as Goldsmith tried to make this a referendum on the third runway at Heathrow, it was clearly largely a vote against Brexit.
Richmond upon Thames, the borough which covers most of the constituency, has the second-highest average income in London. Part of Kingston upon Thames, in the top third, makes up the rest. 69% of Richmond Park voters backed Remain.
Goldsmith will also have had a certain amount of payback for his extremely racist campaign in this year's London mayoral election.
The Green Party did not contest the seat in favour of the Lib Dems. The Greens claim to be anti-austerity, yet are prepared to back a party that spent five years in coalition with Tories carrying through brutal cuts.
Worse still, some Labour MPs called for the Labour Party not to stand. This included Clive Lewis, a leading figure in pro-Corbyn campaign group Momentum.
Jeremy Corbyn's critics will use the fact Labour lost its deposit due to low votes as another chance to attack his anti-austerity leadership. But this is home ground for the Tories and Liberals.
And for working class voters and new Labour members in the area, the Labour candidate, railway columnist Christian Wolmar, was hardly inspiring. Although previously a Corbyn supporter, he backed Owen Smith in 2016.
What was lacking in this byelection was a candidate who could use the platform to put forward a socialist alternative to EU, Tory and Liberal austerity.
Such a candidate still might not have won in Richmond Park, but could have helped galvanise anti-austerity voters to join the fight against the cuts.
In The Socialist 7 December 2016:
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