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.
— Martha Gill (@Martha_Gill) October 25, 2016
Goldsmith tweeted: “Following the Government’s catastrophic Heathrow announcement, I will be meeting my constituents later today before making a statement.”
Following the Government’s catastrophic Heathrow announcement, I will be meeting my constituents later today before making a statement.
— Zac Goldsmith (@ZacGoldsmith) October 25, 2016
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.
— Caroline Lucas (@CarolineLucas) October 25, 2016
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.”