Christian Wolmar, the Labour candidate in the by-election, reflects on what brought down Zac Goldsmith, revived Lib Dem fortunes and lost him his depositby Christian Wolmar / December 2, 2016 / Leave a comment
My campaign did not get off to the best of starts. An eagle-eyed reporter—well, a Google-literate one—on the Telegraph spotted that I had written an article for The Oldie magazine on how toilet roll was an outdated and unhygienic practice when Japanese-style spray toilets were far superior.
So my first headline after being selected as Labour candidate for Richmond Park concerned my plan to ban toilet paper. In retrospect that was no bad thing. Of course I had no such plans, and had to fend off jokes about visitors to my house bringing their own, but at least it was coverage. And that was better than my fate for most of this campaign, which was to be ignored by the media.
The campaign was made even more difficult by the absence of good local papers. The Richmond & Twickenham Times is a shadow of its former self. One issue during the campaign had just a dozen news stories and barely anything about the election, apart from the fact that Sarah Olney, the Lib Dem candidate who went on to win, handed in a petition to No 10. Hold the front page!
The Evening Standard consistently ignored me, even when, during the well-attended hustings, I launched a fierce attack on Zac Goldsmith which attracted considerable support in the room. The subsequent news report lead on how he had torn his trousers in a minor car accident which resulted in him turning up late.
Anyway, his soft speaking and smooth looks are now, thankfully, history, thanks to his misreading of the political mood. He stressed throughout that this was a referendum on Heathrow but that clearly became a nonsense once all three main candidates had come out in opposition to the airport’s expansion. What did come up time and again, unprompted on the doorstep, was Brexit. Even some who had voted “Leave” expressed doubts.
I too came out strongly against Brexit and said I would not sign Article 50 if elected. This got me into trouble with the Labour hierarchy but several other MPs have also said this, and, unlike in the days of Blair, there is little emphasis on “message discipline.” Seumas…