Nick Clegg prior to giving a television interview during a visit to Hughes Safety Showers on May 21, 2014 in Stockport, England. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Lib Dems endure mixed results in parliamentary seats

The party held onto Eastleigh and Sutton but lost Cambridge and Kingston.

The defining test for the Lib Dems in the local elections is how they perform in those areas where they have MPs. If the party can hold on in its local strongholds, Nick Clegg will be able to put a positive spin on what are generally terrible results.

To the relief of Lib Dem HQ, then, they can point to signs of resilience. The party won comfortably in Eastleigh, where the Conservative vote collapsed from 28 per cent to just 16 per cent, and in Birmingham Yardley, where it defeated Labour by 46 per cent to 28 per cent. In addition, it held Sutton, where it has two MPs - Paul Burstow and Tom Brake - and gained four seats from the Tories and Labour.

The main exception is Kingston, home to Energy Secretary Ed Davey, where the party lost control to the Tories having held the council for 12 years. Davey will hope that the result says more about the performance of the council, which has the highest rate of council tax in London and saw its leader jailed, then it does about his general election chances.

But while the party has performed credibly in Tory-facing seats, it has suffered in areas where Labour is the main challenger. It lost control of Cambridge, where Julian Huppert is MP, and lost seats in Hornsey and Wood Green, Lynne Featherstone's constituency.

If it's clear that the Lib Dems aren't destined for wipeout in 2015, it's also clear that some of its best-known figures are in serious danger of losing their seats next year.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Zac Goldsmith to quit as Tory MP after Heathrow decision announced

The environmentalist is expected to stand as an independent candidate.

Zac Goldsmith, the MP for Richmond Park and North Kingston, and a committed environmentalist, has announced his resignation after the government backed a third runway at Heathrow. 

He has told his local Conservative association of the decision, according to The Huffington Post. The group has reportedly agreed to back him as an independent in a by-election.

Goldsmith tweeted: "Following the Government's catastrophic Heathrow announcement, I will be meeting my constituents later today before making a statement."

Goldsmith had previously pledged to resign if the government went ahead with the decision. By quitting, he will trigger a by-election, in which he is expected to stand as an independent candidate. 

Speaking in the Commons, he said the project was "doomed" and would be a "millstone" around the government's neck. He said: "The complexities, the cost, the legal complications mean this project is almost certainly not going to be delivered."


However, there is no guarantee it is a by-election he will win. Here's Stephen Bush on why a Richmond Park and Kingston by-election could be good news for the Lib Dems.

After years of speculation, the government announced on Tuesday it was plumping for Heathrow instead of Gatwick. Transport secretary Chris Grayling called it a "momentous" decision.

The announcement will please business groups, but anger environmentalists, and MPs representing west London constituencies already affected by the noise pollution. 

In a recent post on his constituency website, Goldsmith highlighted the noise levels, the risk of flying so many planes over densely-populated areas, and the political fallout. He declared: "I promised voters I would step down and hold a by-election if Heathrow gets the go-ahead and I will stand by that pledge."

Once a Tory "nice boy" pin up, Goldsmith's reputation has suffered in the past year due to his campaigning tactics when he ran against Sadiq Khan for London mayor. Advised by strategist Lynton Crosby, Goldsmith tried to play on racial divisions and accused Khan of links to extremists. Despite enjoying support from London's Evening Standard, he lost.

The former mayor of London, Boris Johnson, once declared he would lie down "in front of those bulldozers" but has toned down his objections since becoming foreign secretary.

Green MP Caroline Lucas urged him to follow Goldsmith and resign, so he could team up with her in opposing the extension at Heathrow.

Labour, in contrast, has welcomed the decision. The shadow Transport secretary Andy McDonald said: “We welcome any decision that will finally give certainty on airport expansion, much needed in terms of investment and growth in our country." He urged the government to provide more detail on the proposals.

But London's Labour mayor Sadiq Khan accused the government of "running roughshod" over Londoners' views. He said: "Heathrow expansion is the wrong decision for London, and the wrong decision for the whole of Britain."

Julia Rampen is the editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog. She was previously deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.