So, the Tory- and UKIP-endorsed Zac Goldsmith, recently defeated after a shockingly racist campaign for London Mayor, has now been defeated in the Richmond Park constituency he resigned to trigger a by-election.
He lost to Sarah Olney, the LibDem candidate who campaigned on an explicit anti-Brexit, anti-runway platform to appeal to a constituency that voted 72.3% in favour of remain in the EU referendum and overwhelmingly resents the new runway that Theresa May has confirmed will be built at Heathrow.
The LibDems, understandably, are ecstatic and Tim Farron’s speech at Richmond Park this morning was full of predictions of voters deserting Corbyn’s supposedly-failed project. This is bollocks, of course, but understandable bollocks, given the LibDems still-dire situation.
Labour right-wingers, fully supported by their media allies, will attempt to pin Labour’s result – an 8% fall in share compared to 2015 – on leader Jeremy Corbyn’s ‘unelectability’. This is predictable, but utter nonsense – because the result shows the complete opposite.
Labour’s candidate in this by-election, Christian Wolmar, was an outspoken Corbyn critic during the recent leadership election and a firm supporter of Corbyn’s rival, Owen Smith – he organised the unsuccessful motion in support of Smith at his constituency party.
His performance in this election was woeful, a mere 1,515 votes – less than 4%.
Labour were never going to win this election. Richmond Park is an affluent area and the Lib Dems are still the natural party of protest for the non-racist well-off. Even in the Labour landslide of 1997, the year it was created, it voted LibDem. In fact, Goldsmith’s wins there for the Tories in 2010/2015 were the anomaly, the latter’s large majority probably reflective of the disgust of natural LibDem voters at their collaboration in the previous government.
But the performance of an explicitly anti-Corbyn candidate speaks volumes. In the Sheffield council by election in September, Labour lost over 9% of its share and lost the seat to the LibDems – with a vociferously anti-Corbyn candidate, Julie Grocutt:
Whereas in by-elections with pro-Corbyn or even neutral candidates, Labour has seen substantial swings in its favour in many areas.
Spot the pattern yet?
The Richmond Park result also underlines the fact that pollsters currently have no clue what’s going on. Recent polling in Richmond Park suggested Goldsmith was going to win comfortably, with 59% of the vote against Olney’s 38%.
Labour’s right-wing factions love to point to polls, love to spout about Corbyn’s supposed unelectability and the party’s poor electoral prospects under his leadership. But in fact the opposite is true.
Anti-Corbyn candidates, who offer no inspiration and promise the ‘more of the same’ politics people are plainly sick to the back teeth of, are death to Labour’s prospects. The public associates them with the whining, back-stabbing, morally bankrupt nonsense of the ‘chicken coup’ – and, frankly, considers them losers on the basis of their inability to even execute a rebellion properly.
If Labour wants to win the next General Election, the party simply cannot contemplate standing anti-Corbyn candidates – including incumbents.
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