Quite a few MPs are driven by a strange need for validation, but Zac Goldsmith might be the first politician in history to ask his constituents to vote for him three times in two years. Once as Mayor (the less said about that tawdry campaign the better) and, it seems, twice as MP for Richmond Park. He always said he’d resign and trigger a by-election if the Government approved Heathrow, as it did this morning. Originally his threat had force because Richmond was a Tory-Lib Dem marginal and his resignation would mean that the Tories would probably lose a seat. It was Richmond’s way of saying to the Tories: ‘Yes, we’ll vote for you – but only if people like Cameron and Theresa May are being honest about their opposition to a third runway. And if you, Tories, then damage our quality of life with a third runway, then our support vanishes immediately.’ So Zac’s position made sense.
But now, we hear that Zac is standing again as an ‘independent Conservative’. And one who would, I suspect, be no more or less supportive of the Government than he was before – causing the Tory whips next to no trouble at all. The Tories aren’t even bothering to put a candidate up against him.
So what’s the point of his resigning, with the hassle and expense that the by-election involves? He says he wants a mandate to fight the third runway, but he was given that last year. What will change? The bookies have him at 10/11 to win the by-election, the favourite – but with the LibDems close behind. Their pitch might be that they also oppose the third runway – but don’t believe in hissy fit by-elections.