Zac Goldsmith to run as Tory MP in Richmond Park despite no change to policy he resigned over

Tom Batchelor
Zac Goldsmith will contest his former Richmond Park constituency on 8 June: EPA

Former Tory MP and London mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith has been selected by the party to stand again in the south-west London constituency of Richmond Park.

Mr Goldsmith lost his seat in a by-election triggered last October when he left the party in protest at the Government's decision to build a third runway at Heathrow, a policy which remains unchanged.

Local party members met on Wednesday evening to decide who should represent Richmond Park, whose current MP is Lib Dem Sarah Olney.

He was standing against Luke Parker - the Tory candidate in Brent North for the 2015 General Election - and barrister Laura Farris.

The constituency voted heavily for Remain during the EU referendum last year, putting the majority of constituents at odds with Mr Goldsmith's support for Brexit.

Local Tories insist Mr Goldsmith is not a "hardened Brexiteer", claiming “he has led on guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens in the UK”.

Constituency chairwoman Georgina Butler said: "We are delighted that Zac Goldsmith has been reselected as the Conservative candidate for Richmond Park and North Kingston in the forthcoming General Election, and we look forward to having him back again as our representative in Parliament.

"After a resounding victory in the 2015 General Election, his absence from Parliament since last December has been a disappointment. He is widely regarded the best MP that Richmond Park and North Kingston has ever had, and we need him back to represent our residents effectively.

"Far from being a hardened Brexiteer as his opponents have painted him, he will fight for the best deal for Britain. He has led on guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens in the UK, and is a champion of strong protection for the environment.

"He will also continue to lead the fight against Heathrow expansion, an issue which continues to concern our residents."

But Tom Brake MP, Liberal Democrat chief whip, said: “By standing as a Conservative after resigning over Heathrow, Zac Goldsmith has just lost his last shred of credibility.

“People in Richmond Park voted resoundingly against a hard Brexit and against Heathrow expansion, both backed by Zac Goldsmith's Conservative Party. Instead they voted for the Liberal Democrat Sarah Olney.

“Zac Goldsmith couldn’t stand on a Conservative platform last time, so what’s changed?"

December’s by-election defeat marked the second setback for Mr Goldsmith within months, after he lost to Sadiq Khan in the 2016 London mayoral election.

That campaign was hugely criticised for its negative messaging and focus on Mr Khan's Muslim background.