Friday, 2 December 2016

Another humiliating slap-down for Zac Goldsmith


As regular readers will know I'm not a big fan of the so-called Liberal Democrats. Most of my contempt for them stems from their strategically inept decision to enable the Tories back into  absolute power in 2010.

During the five years they propped up David Cameron's government the votes of elected Lib-Dem MPs and unelected Lib-Dem peers enabled 
all kind of appalling Tory malice. Years of socially and economically ruinous austerity, the flogging off of the Royal Mail at way below its true market value, "Bedroom Tax", the tripling of university student fees, the annihilation of flood defence spending (with disastrous consequences in several Lib-Dem constituencies), the NHS privatisation-by-stealth bill, Iain Duncan Smith's regime of terror for disabled people ... it was all enabled by Lib-Dem votes.


Perhaps even worse than the social and economic destruction the Lib-Dems helped David Cameron and George Osborne to inflict on the British public was the slew of gratuitously illiberal legislation that this supposedly "liberal" party helped to push trough.

No party with the word "liberal" in their name should ever have backed appalling stuff like Secret Courts, DRIPA, The Gagging Law or Theresa May's policy of tearing apart tens of thousands of British families. But that's precisely what the so-called Liberal Democrats did.

Even though the Lib-Dem's savagely illiberal actions between 2010 and 2015 speak very much louder than their cosy liberal words post-2015, I'm still pleased for their winning candidate in Richmond Park Sarah Olney.

Olney is very new to politics having only joined the Lib-Dems in July 2015. The fact that she joined them after the end of the toxic coalition with the Tories absolves her of the blame that much of the rest of the party deserve for their active participation in such a hard-right and illiberal government.

Another factor that makes Olney's victory very enjoyable is that as the de facto Liberal-Green candidate she managed to defeat the de facto Tory-UKIP candidate Zac Goldsmith.

It's an absolute pleasure to see how rapidly Zac Goldsmith's political career has collapsed after the failure of his bigoted BNP-style campaign to become the Mayor of London.

A lot of political commentators have tried to make this by-election all about Brexit, but in my opinion it represents something much bigger. It represents a resounding defeat for the bigoted right-wing dog whistle racism that Zac Goldsmith embraced in his failed bid to succeed his fellow Eton toff Boris Johnson as the Mayor of London.

The Lib-Dems have claimed that around a third of the Tory voters who abandoned Zac Goldsmith in order to vote for Sarah Olney were Brexit supporters who are disillusioned with the anti-democratic hard-right Brexit posturing and divisive immigration fearmongering of Theresa May and the Tories.

If the Lib-Dem claims are true and lots of Brexit supporters turned against the joint Tory-UKIP candidate in this by-election, it looks like a hefty slap-down for the hard-right bigotry that Zac Goldsmith was all-too-keen to appeal to during his failed mayoral campaign.

It seems that Goldsmith completely failed to learn his lesson that London doesn't want divisive extreme-right bigotry. He failed to distance himself from the Ukippers and Biffers who supported his by-election campaign, and he's lost his seat in parliament as a consequence.

If people do insist on viewing the Richmond Park by-election through the prism of Brexit, then one thing that really stands out is the way that Sarah Olney's win turns the plucky anti-establishment Brexiter narrative completely on its head.

Here we saw a comprehensive school educated political novice beating a well-connected, Eton educated, establishment insider from a super-rich elitist family. The novice from an ordinary background won for the Remain side and the establishment insider who took such a humiliating slap-down was a committed Brexiteer.

The idea of Brexit as an anti-establishment rebellion was ludicrous enough with people like Boris Johnson, Rupert Murdoch, Michael Gove, Iain Duncan Smith, Nigel Farage, Richard Desmond, Jonathan Harmsworth and Douglas Carswell cast as the working class anti-establishment heroes, but this by-election really did show this plucky anti-establishment Brexiter narrative up as the woeful drivel that it is.

Despite the joy any right-thinking person must feel at Zac Goldsmith's humiliation, it's vitally important to temper this surprise defeat for the hard-right with a bit of perspective. The joint Tory-UKIP candidate was beaten by a narrow margin in a wealthy liberal part of London. It's going to take an awful lot more effort to beat hard-right bigotry in places that have suffered appallingly as a result of four decades of relentless neoliberal economic dogma.

The "blame foreigners, blame refugees, blame the EU, blame lefties" snake oil of the extreme-right is obviously going to sell a hell of a lot better in politically abandoned places where huge numbers of people are desperately struggling to get by, than it does in well-to-do parts of London.

In conclusion I'd like to bid a cheery farewell to Zac Goldsmith's political career and hope that he never comes back (he'll probably soon reappear as an unelected crony in the House of Lords though, as is the Tory way), and I'd also like to wish all the best to Sarah Olney and hope that she represents a new start for the Liberal-Democrats; one that involves never again propping up hard-right illiberal Tory governments in return for a a few years of six figure ministerial salaries and chauffeur driven ministerial cars.



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