Zac Goldsmith (CON – Richmond Park) has said if the Conservative Government greenlight Heathrow Expansion, he will resign, triggering a by-election in his constituency. It was revealed that he would stand as an independent in the following by-election, hoping that the idea of a “personal vote” would keep him in Parliament, but on the opposite benches.
Tory sources, however, claim that they would not put a candidate up against the former journalist, fearing that their support of an independent would be less embarassing than their vote splitting and losing the seat, most likely to the Liberal Democrats, who held the seat until the 2010 Election with the now-Baroness Susan Kramer. Before that, it was held by controversial Lib Dem MP Jenny Tonge, who recently said that Israel has led to a rise in antisemitism, to critical calls from the Party to strip her of her membership.
“The problem is they don’t want to be a hostage to fortune. It’s very unlikely we will put up a candidate against Zac”
The last time a similar thing happened was the 1997 General Election, when Labour and the Liberal Democrats did not stand their own candidate in Tatton (Cheshire) to support independent candidate Martin Bell, a BBC war correspondant, who was standing on an anti-corruption platform against sitting Tory MP Neil Hamilton, now of UKIP infamy, who was embroiled in a cash for questions scandal.
The plan, masterminded by Tony Blair’s spin doctor Alastair Campbell, saw Bell win with over 60% of the vote, marking a huge change for the constituency. Bell, who pledged to only sit one term, said that he later regretted the pledge, but saw it through, stepping down at the 2001 General Election, when the seat was won by former Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne.
The Tories also fear that a domino-effect could be triggered, causing Tania Mathias (CON – Twickenham), another vehemently opposed critic of Heathrow expansion, to resign. Again, the seat was held by the Liberal Democrats’ Vince Cable, who lost it in the 2015 General Election by a mere 3.3%, meaning that a by-election there could be a catastrophic failure for the Conservatives.
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