After Zac Goldsmith’s decision to step down as an MP and trigger a by-election in Richmond Park, the Liberal Democrats are excited. They’re getting hot under their collars because they think they can snatch back a seat they lost to the Tories in 2010 and add to their lowly tally of eight MPs. A new poll out today suggests their chances don’t look good: the BMG phone survey puts Zac 27 points ahead of his Lib Dem rival Sarah Olney in the upcoming election. But is it really safe to write off the Lib Dems’ chances so easily?
The party is, against all the odds, enjoying something of a resurgence of late: membership is soaring and Tim Farron is doing his best to make his party the destination of choice for disgruntled ‘Remainers’. It’s a strategy that seems to be paying off: in Witney, one of the most Europhile areas of the country, the party managed a 19 per cent swing in the by-election for David Cameron’s old seat last week. If they could slightly better that result on December 1st, and they’ll certainly be throwing everything they have at doing so, they’d win in Richmond.
If they pulled it off, they’d be back to winning ways in a seat that was previously a Lib Dem stronghold. In each election between 1997 to 2010, the party won more than 40 per cent of the vote. Even when the Lib Dem’s Susan Kramer was beaten by Goldsmith six years ago, she still achieved 25,370 votes (42.8 per cent). It seems even in defeat, the Lib Dems have never been far behind in Richmond.
Admittedly, it is true that the party has a long way to come back from its decimation in 2015. Last time out, their share of the vote was slashed to less than 20 per cent.