A Conservative MP defending a tiny majority in a marginal west London seat has told his constituents that the Liberal Democrats are assisting Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in his attempt to become Prime Minister on 12 December.
Zac Goldsmith, who won his Richmond Park seat in 2017 by just 45 votes, wrote in an email that “supported by the Liberal Democrats, Jeremy Corbyn is poised to become Prime Minister of the most hard-left wing governments (sic) we have ever had”.
Arguing in favour of “a Conservative majority government” Goldsmith, a long-standing Eurosceptic and Leave supporter, also says in his email that more funding for schools, tackling climate change, police officers and the NHS would ensue from such an outcome, “all paid for by a protected and growing economy”.
The Lib Dems are targeting a number of seats across the capital, including Goldsmith’s, but they include the Labour-held seats Kensington and Hornsey & Wood Green as well as other Tory-held ones, such as Cities of London & Westminster and Finchley & Golders Green.
Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson has repeatedly derided both Corbyn and Tory Prime Minister Boris Johnson, telling the BBC this week that neither man is “fit to be Prime Minister” when invited to rule out supporting either of them after the 12 December general election should they lead the party with the largest number of seats.
Goldsmith first won Richmond Park in 2010 and successfully defended it in 2015, but lost it in a famous December 2016 by-election to his Lib Dem challenger Sarah Olney.
That contest, held six months after the EU referendum in a strongly Remain-supporting area, was brought about by Goldsmith keeping a promise to resign and fight a by-election if the Conservative-led national government approved the proposed expansion of Heathrow airport, which he opposes. However, his defeat, running as an Independent, was widely seen as a backlash against Brexit. Goldsmith stood as a Tory again when regaining the seat in 2017.
Earlier in 2016, Goldsmith had been heavily criticised for his unsuccessful negative campaign to become London Mayor, which sought to link the winning candidate, Labour’s Sadiq Khan, unfavourably with Corbyn’s leadership and raise fears among voters that Khan, a Muslim of Pakistani descent, had ties with Islamist extremists. Tactics also included literature tailored for Indian Londoners, largely Hindu, suggesting Khan supported the idea of a “wealth tax” on their jewellery.
The Lib Dems reached an agreement with the local Green Party in both 2016 and 2017, whereby the latter did not contest the seat, in order to help Olney beat the Tory. Olney is again the Lib Dem candidate for Richmond Park. The Greens announced their candidate for the seat, local councillor Andrée Frieze, earlier this month. Richmond Lib Dems and Greens formed a successful electoral alliance for fighting some Richmond Council seats in 2018.
Frieze’s Twitter profile says she is the Green candidate for the London Assembly South West constituency for 2020, but not that she is a parliamentary candidate. She has been contacted by On London to find out if she still intends to stand as a parliamentary candidate. Green Party national co-leader Jonathan Bartley, who is also a Lambeth councillor, has told the BBC that “negotiations are ongoing” with other parties with a view to getting pro-Remain candidates elected.
On London intends to provide the fullest possible coverage of the 2019 general election campaign in the capital, along with other big issues for the city. The website depends on financial support from readers to pay its freelance writers. Just £5 a month makes an important difference. To donate to On London, click here. Thank you.