Here are our Top-10 reasons to not stand in Richmond Park:
1. Zac Goldsmith resigned out of principle. He made a promise to oppose Heathrow expansion and resign as an MP to stand as an Independent. In an age where “principle” and “integrity” are difficult to come-by – particularly in the Conservative Party – this should be a welcome move. We cannot attack MPs for selling-out then, in the next breath; attack them for doing the opposite.
2. He is a popular MP enjoying the support of his constituents. Heathrow expansion is widely opposed in Richmond Park. Goldsmith’s constituents deserve the chance to re-elect him. Elected just 1 year ago with an increased majority; standing against Goldsmith would be seen as a slimy attempt at subverting democracy.
3. The Tories will lose an MP. Of course, Zac Goldsmith will vote with the government on the majority of issues: but to stand as an Independent will pile pressure on a Tory government already under pressure on fracking, Brexit, grammar schools and Heathrow.
4. Zac Goldsmith would be under no pressure whatsoever to vote with the government. He would be able to vote on environmental issues without the pressure of Conservative whips; and speak-out on issues more freely knowing he remains independent of Theresa May.
5. Labour will lose. The Witney by-election confirmed Labour’s vote is likely to reduce in Tory safe-seats (down by just over 2% in Witney); no doubt for moving Leftwards. However, this will ensure victories in marginal seats and increase vote shares in Labour, SNP and Plaid safe-seats. Moving Leftwards will not win Tory safe-seats. This is a necessary price – and it’s worth paying.
6. The Lib Dem vote increased by a 25% in Witney – an astronomical increase for a Party annihilated in 2015. If other Parties stood in the Richmond by-election the Lib Dems would have less chance of winning. If the Left were to back a candidate; the obvious choice would be LD Sarah Olney.
7. It’s a waste of money. Labour is swimming in cash thanks to its surge in membership and supporters. However, to throw thousands of pounds at a by-election Labour stands no chance of winning would be foolish. As above, the chances of winning may actually decrease, resulting in a lower vote share and another media headline slamming Labour’s “ailing support” in the South. Do we really need another PR disaster at the present time? The Left has already failed spectacularly in controlling the message over the last few weeks; allowing Corbyn’s attendance at a Stand Up to Racism event to deflect from the failings of Theresa May and her Cabinet. We need to end this. Now.
8. We all agree on the issue of Heathrow expansion. A united front from the Left against Heathrow could force the government into its first major u-turn. This government is drowning in incompetence. What better way to land its first major blow than from someone who was (and may still be) the future of its own Party? If we are to succeed in halting Heathrow expansion, we need to be united and reach past our differences. This is an issue of serious environmental and economic importance. Splitting the vote and fighting each other will damage – not strengthen – our ability to defeat the Tories.
9. We often talk about a “Progressive Alliance.” This could be the first major test of its effectiveness. Not that we succeed in allowing a Tory to win. But in coordinating our efforts to ensure Left-wing issues are heard and enforced. Solutions don’t always come in perfect-form: but they come nonetheless.
10. To hijack the re-election of a popular MP who stands-up for their constituents and keeps their promises would be to hijack democracy itself. This is not a general election. This is not an, “Oh, I’ve had enough,” by-election. This is a principled decision taken by an MP elected just over one year ago with a resounding mandate to oppose Heathrow expansion. Zac Goldsmith is – in many ways – an atrocious MP. But this election is not about his voting record. It’s about Heathrow. We need to be seen to support the will of local residents and recognise when someone has acted justly. We demand it for Corbyn. We should demand it for Goldsmith.
We hate to say it: but allowing Zac Goldsmith to win Richmond Park could be the best thing for the Left since Corbyn’s re-election. We have to be careful. This is not a blank cheque for Goldsmith to do whatever he pleases. But, if we handle this correctly, we will be seen as a Party that seeks unity in all things; that will fight on the issues – not the person delivering them. A Party that – above all – respects democracy; the right to uphold ones principles with dignity and respect – and is supported for it.
It’s what we’d expect for Islington North. It’s what we should do for Richmond Park.