For Richmond read Ribble Valley – Tim Farron is comparing December's Zac Goldsmith by election to a famous Poll Tax win

 
Mark Sands
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The Liberal Democrat Leader Addresses Party Conference
Farron was elected Lib Dem leader after the part was reduced to just eight MPs in the General Election (Source: Getty)

With a month to go before voting begins in Richmond Park, Lib Dem leader Tim Farron has compared the by election battle to a 25-year-old victory that helped bring about the end of the poll-tax.

Speaking to City A.M. while travelling to Richmond for his first full day of campaigning in West London since the former Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith resigned, Farron said voters have a chance to inflict their own Ribble Valley moment on Theresa May's government.

The Lib Dems won the 1991 Lancashire by election largely campaigning against the poll tax, with then Prime Minister John Major scrapping the charge shortly afterwards. The party lost the seat again just a year later at the 1992 General Election, however.

“This is very similar to Ribble Valley,” said Farron, arguing that voters in Richmond Park have the opportunity to provide an early verdict on the approach to quitting the EU, and in particular suggestions of a so-called “hard Brexit” that could scrap the UK's Single Market membership and put at risk the passporting rights of financial institutions.

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“People have an initial sense that there is an extreme direction which the government is taking that is something that no-one voted on.

“And places like Richmond perceive that quicker than anyone else. A lot of people here work in the City. They know real estate prices in Frankfurt have shot up 20 per cent since Brexit, and that for Fin Tech 45 per cent more venture capital has gone into Germany than the UK.

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“We estimate that there are 100,000 jobs in the UK linked to clearing alone, and those are all being affected by that uncertainty, too,” he said, dismissing recent signs of positivity in the UK's economy.

"The resilience of business to keep going is one thing, but don't forget that we are still in the EU," Farron said.

“This is a chance for people to change the government's position on something that is fundamentally important to them.

“They are not going to change their mind on Heathrow, but this could change their mind on how to approach Brexit.”

Read More: And now Ukip has also pulled out of Zac Goldsmith's by-election

One poll in the constituency this week had Goldsmith dramatically in the lead over Lib Dem candidate Sarah Olney.

BMG figures put Goldsmith on 56 per cent, with Olney trailing on 29 per cent.

Farron admitted his party are outsiders to take the seat, saying only that he is “confident we have a chance”, but also noted that Olney's performance in that poll is 10 per cent ahead of the Lib Dem result in the 2015 General Election.

“We are clearly the challengers and we are encouraged by that poll,” he said.

“It shows a very significant increase in our vote share and that has got a lot to do with [Brexit].”

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