In the early days of Europhobia in UK politics, there was no greater pleasure than seeing the Referendum Party losing its deposit in a whole string of General Election and by-election contests. This was not unconnected to the leader of that party being the late and not at all lamented James Goldsmith, a monumental shit of no known principle, who, like Nigel “Thirsty” Farage, was indulged by the media but never got into the Commons.
Man of the people, or maybe not
Goldsmith was also despised by many who cherished free speech and the right of dissent from the conventional wisdom, as he had tried - and ultimately failed - to close down Private Eye magazine in the 1970s over allegations the Eye made over his potential involvement in the disappearance of Lord Lucan, who is generally agreed to have murdered his family’s nanny before vanishing off the face of the earth.
The sheer obnoxiousness of the family patriarch has since hovered over the rest of the Goldsmith dynasty, despite the ostensibly agreeable demeanour of son Zac, who became an MP in 2010 when he defeated Lib Dem Susan Kramer to win the constituency of Richmond Park for the Tories. The collapse in the Lib Dem vote at last year’s General Election inflated Goldsmith’s majority to just over 23,000.
And Zac could have remained MP for Richmond Park for the foreseeable future, but for two things: first, he put himself forward as Tory candidate for the London Mayoralty, and then took part in a campaign notable only for its disgraceful Islamophobia and suggestions that his Labour opponent Sadiq Khan was some kind of terrorist sympathiser. This would have gone down like a cup of cold sick with his constituents.
As if that were not bad enough, Goldsmith then had a mardy strop when it was announced that Heathrow Airport would be favoured for expansion, with a third runway to be built in the near future. Pretending to have high principles, Goldsmith resigned his seat and declared that he would contest the resulting by-election as an Independent. This was complete crap, as all the Tories campaigning for him showed.
Not only that, Goldsmith declared that he was in favour of Britain leaving the EU - like father, like son - and in a constituency that voted Remain by a margin of 70% to 30% he was always on a a hiding to nothing. His Lib Dem opponent Sarah Olney, representing a party that has more than 50 years’ experience of winning by-elections (Orpington was in 1962), declared her support for the EU and opposition to triggering Article 50.
And so it came to pass that Zac Goldsmith had his 23,000 majority overturned by Sarah Olney and her confident smile, the Lib Dems securing a dream result after last year’s humiliations. There have been the usual confident noises about Goldsmith bouncing back, but the reality is that this overmonied, out of touch patrician has shot his bolt and would be best advised not to bother even thinking about comebacks.
Zac Goldsmith - so far the only one in 2016 to run a nasty racist campaign and not get rewarded for it. Yes, there he goes, on his way … out.