Zac Goldsmith has no-one to blame but himself for his fate

Chris Moncrieff
Chris Moncrieff

A combination of arrogance and vanity brought Zac Goldsmith to his political knees in the Richmond Park by-election.

Goldsmith brought all this on himself. He squandered a 23,000 majority he acquired at the last general election – and added an unnecessary cash burden to the taxpayer by resigning from Parliament and forcing a by-election which need never have taken place.

He resigned as a Tory after the government announced they would go ahead with a new runway at Heathrow Airport. He then quit Parliament, probably assuming, as most people did, that it would be nigh-on impossible for him to lose the by-election.

Well, he miscalculated catastrophically. The by-election was fought on the Brexit issue and not the runway – and Goldsmith paid the price, which he fully deserved.

He says he will be back – but will he? Constituency parties are unlikely to look favourably on would-be candidates for Parliament who do not stay and fight their corner, when their policies are rejected by the government, but who instead involve themselves in theatrical gestures like resigning.

Goldsmith got his comeuppance – and he can blame no one but himself for that.

Sarah Olney, the heroic Liberal Democrat winner of the Richmond Park by-election, has already, even before she has set foot in the House of Commons, suffered at the hands of a busybody party official grossly interfering in her post-victory activities.

Olney demonstrated huge ability and stamina in fighting this by-election, which no one dreamed she could win.

She can therefore hold her own without relying on patronising party hacks telling her what to do. She was not being thrown in at the deep end.

So when she appeared on talkRADIO, to be interviewed by Julia Hartley-Brewer, and was in the process of answering some, admittedly, tricky questions, this know-all official popped up from nowhere, to tell her she had to leave, which unfortunately she did. You cannot blame her for not telling this official to take a running jump, but I wish she had.

So now she bears the reputation of having stormed out of an interview within hours of being elected an MP.

Why on earth do political parties employ such people? Why don’t they let their MPs think for themselves? The trouble is that politics is full of such people, pulling the strings – and usually the wrong ones.

I see that the Prime Minister has appointed to 10, Downing Street an economic adviser, implying, rightly or wrongly, that her faith in the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, may not be 100%.

I trust she is fully aware that there is a disturbing precedent to such action. When Margaret Thatcher used the economic guru Sir Alan Walters – who appeared to be in conflict with her own Chancellor, Nigel Lawson – it was an early stepping stone to her own downfall.

Sir Alan described Lawson’s policies as “half-baked”. Lawson was so incensed at this that he called on Thatcher to tell him to shut up and discard him. But she refused.

Neil Kinnock, the Labour leader at the time, said the country was being run by two Chancellors – and it was difficult to gainsay that.

But Lawson had had enough and resigned, a huge blow to Thatcher. It was an event which helped lead Mrs Thatcher to her political demise at the hands of her own party.

So, we assume the present Prime Minister has taken all this on board before making such a risky appointment.

The MP’s aide who carelessly exposed to sensitive press cameras the contents of a document allegedly setting out the government’s policy on Brexit, should purchase herself a briefcase without delay to avoid a repetition.

The document spoke of the so-called “have your cake and eat it” attitude of the government towards Brexit. But the government denied this was their policy. For once I believe them.

Indeed, it looked and sounded like the ramblings of an MP with little or no input into the government’s plans. Even so, this is not the first time the contents of documents, some of them important and confidential, have been carelessly exposed to the world.

These people should realise that press photographers do not operate with old-fashioned Box Brownies these days.

Why all the fuss, for heaven’s sake, about the Prime Minister wearing leather trousers? She should be allowed to wear what she likes when at home (or anywhere else for that matter) without these carping, nit-picking so-called fashionistas finding fault.

I have even heard the meaningless phrase “sending out the wrong message” applied to her choice of trousers. What utter tosh.

I suppose, however, she should be careful not to emulate too closely the provocative, skimpy attire of her near namesake, the strip artiste, Teresa (no “h”) May.

But I imagine that is pretty unlikely.