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Transport expert Christian Wolmar will fight by-election for Labour

Richmond Park candidate rubbishes idea that Labour should have left ballot fight to the Liberal Democrats

12 November, 2016 — By Koos Couvée

Christian Wolmar says Heathrow expansion is ‘unsustainable’

TRANSPORT expert Christian Wolmar has been picked by Labour members to fight the Richmond Park by-election triggered by Tory MP Zac Goldsmith’s resignation over the decision to expand Heathrow Airport.

Mr Wolmar, from Tufnell Park, unsuccessfully ran to become the London Labour mayoral candidate last year. He said Heathrow, Brexit – Mr Goldsmith was pro-Leave – and housing would be the main issues.

The Liberal Democrats, who represented the wealthy suburb until 2010, are hoping to take back the seat with their candidate, Sarah Olney.

Mr Wolmar admitted that, at 67, it was “slightly odd” to take part in his first by-election. But he added: “I came into this political game in 2012 and got the taste for it. Because I’m a new boy on the block I think I have something to offer. People like the idea of someone with life experience going into politics.”

Mr Wolmar, who has written books on railway history, described the planned expansion of Heathrow as “completely unsustainable”.

“I don’t think it’s necessary,” he said. “It will cause massive air pollution and chaos in the area. We need to see if we need more airport expansion but, if this is the case, Gatwick is a much better option.

“We are facing climate change, the question is whether it really is a good idea to encourage more people to fly.”

His Tory rival’s major weak point is his stance on Brexit, Mr Wolmar said. “Brexit, which I feel strongly about, is a disaster for Britain,” he added. “He campaigned for it, while 72 per cent of people in his constituency voted to remain. I’ve never heard a sensible argument for Brexit. It’s all very well for billionaires like him but the people we represent will suffer.”

The Greens are not putting up a candidate. Some senior Labour figures urged their party leadership to do the same to give the Lib Dems a better chance of defeating Mr Goldsmith but Mr Wolmar dismissed the idea.

“Why should we give up a seat to a right-wing and a centre-right candidate and have nobody to stand up for the people of Richmond, against austerity, for social housing and Labour values?” he said.

“If there is a progress­ive alliance it should be negotiated beforehand. I don’t think [Ms Olney] is particularly progressive. And local Labour members said they wanted a candidate.”

Conservatives are not putting up a candidate against Mr Goldsmith, who has a majority of 23,000, which has led critics to describe the December 1 poll as a farce.

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