Zac Goldsmith’s famous parliamentary by-election defeat by Liberal Democrat Sarah Olney in Richmond Park in December 2016 may have been helped by the Green Party choosing not to field a candidate. The Greens said at the time of that decision that they had “begun discussions with the Liberal Democrats about how to best secure a non Conservative-run council in 2018”.
Those discussions have borne fruit. The lists of candidates published on Richmond Council’s website – under Notice of Poll and Statement of Persons Nominated – shows that in six of the borough’s 18 three-seat wards, there are just two Lib Dems standing and one Green, while the Greens are running no candidates in the other 12. Photographer Nicola Albon, who is running for the Greens in Barnes ward, explains that the agreement recognises areas where Greens have been most active on the ground. The other five wards where the Greens have a candidate and the Lib Dems just two are: Ham, Petersham & Riverside; Fulwell & Hampton Hill; Hampton Wick; South Richmond; and South Twickenham.
The thinking is that in some wards a Lib Dem-Green combination is the best way to maximise the anti-Conservative vote in this strongly Remain-leaving borough, where environmental and community-minded “pavement politics” can have considerable purchase. In other wards, however, it is calculated that the best way to get the better of the Tories is for the Greens to stand aside and give the Lib Dems a clear run, rather than risk splitting the biggest part of the non-Tory vote. Labour looks out of contention in nearly all the Richmond wards and hasn’t won a seat there since 1998.
There will be particular hopes of removing the Conservative presence from the split wards of Fulwell & Hampton Hill and Ham, Petersham & Riverside. South Twickenham too, though a three-Tory seat at present, qualifies as a marginal – the Lib Dems took 24.5% of the vote there four years ago and the Greens a very respectable 18.4%. The Lib Dems also relieved the Tories of one of their three Hampton Wick seats at a by-election in 2015.
The Conservatives control Richmond at present with a substantial majority of 21, having taken it off the Lib Dems in 2010. Can the Lib Dem’s really win it back? Here’s a taste of what Lewis Baston has written about the borough in the forthcoming On London Borough Elections Guide: “Although on the face of it a relatively narrow majority for someone looks the likeliest option in 2018, the borough’s history suggests a more decisive outcome.” Could swing a long way. Could stay much the same. It’s one of the more interesting borough contests this year.
Photograph from the Greater London Authority.