by Hakan Ustabas
Following the Government’s announcement of the long-awaited Heathrow expansion plan, Richmond Park Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith resigned from the Party. He triggered a by-election in which he would stand as an independent in the hope of gaining support as a local, and anti-expansion, politician.
Instead of returning to his seat, however, the former London Mayoral candidate was instead defeated by Sarah Olney, who is the ninth MP on the Liberal Democrats’ towering list of political behemoths. As a result of this victory, Lib Dems and Remoaners alike (by this I mean the small minority who want to ignore the referendum, not the vast majority of Remain voters who accepted the outcome of the referendum) are claiming that the mandate for Brexit has been overturned. While this by-election was indeed fought on a European front, it cannot be said that the result of one constituency can delegitimise a national referendum.
Olney, a political nobody until five minutes ago, stood on the election promise to vote against the triggering of Article 50 in the House of Commons. No second referendum. No Single Market vote. Just ignore the will of the people entirely. Such a blatant disregard for democracy wouldn’t be so painful if it weren’t for the fact the Party has democrat in its name. While the official policy of the Illiberal Undemocrats is to vote for a second referendum, their ‘leader’ Tim Farron seemed rather happy about his new MP’s decision to break rank. In an interview with Andrew Neil, Farron described Olney’s decision to vote entirely against Article 50 as “good”.
From where does this Lib Dem arrogance arise? How can the Party, with a fewer than 2.5 million votes, argue that a by-election win with a majority of under 2,000 votes can delegitimise a vote to leave the EU, in which just under 17.5 million people cast their ballot in favour — the highest in the history of the United Kingdom?
The answer is that it simply cannot. 70% of Olney’s constituency in Richmond Park voted Remain on June 23rd. Is it any surprise that they now back a Remain candidate, rather than the staunch Brexiteer which is Goldsmith? To assert that this middle-class, London suburb is a reflection of Brexit regret stemming across a country of 64 million people is nothing but intellectual dishonesty. It is the latest in a long line of excuses which Remoaners have created in order to delegitimise the largest democratic will in our nation’s history.
In a TalkRadio interview following her victory, Olney was asked when the second by-election would be. Failing to spot the irony, the presenter continued. “We don’t really know whether voters knew what they were voting for,” said Julia Hartley-Brewer. “Less than 50% of the people of Richmond voted for you. Are you sure you’ve got that mandate?” “Your margin of victory was about the same as the margin of victory in the EU referendum… should we not re-run the by election to be clear?”
It was delightful to listen to these well-versed Remoaner arguments when the shoe was on the other foot. The lack of logic was clear for all to see, as the rhetoric could as easily apply to any general election, or the election of any Member of Parliament. Instead of defending her indefensible viewpoint, the supposedly accountable politician Olney declined to continue to discuss politics, and instead fled from the interview without warning.
Most Remain voters have been gracious in defeat, and have accepted that the vote to Leave was legitimate, and is also coupled with a mandate to leave the Single Market — the only way in which the UK can control its laws, trade, and immigration policies. A vocal minority of Remoaners, however, have continued to assert the intellectually dishonest arguments which I have outlined above. They might work for the pro-Remain constituency of Richmond Park, but they won’t wash with the citizens of the UK. The country made a decision on June 23rd. Whether or not you agreed with that decision, you should support its legitimacy, by-election or not.