Rejected Tory MPs Zac Goldsmith and Esther McVey on Wednesday night took major steps forward in their political comeback after being selected as Tory election candidates.
Goldsmith, who lost his Richmond seat to the Lib Dems in December’s by-election, was named candidate in his former seat.
McVey, the former Conservative welfare minister, has been named the Tory candidate in the seat left vacant by George Osborne stepping down.
Osborne, who has quit politics “for now” to spend more time editting the London Evening Standard, revealed on Twitter his former ministerial colleague was poised to be his successor in Tatton, a safe Conservative seat.
Osborne was returned in the Cheshire constituency two years ago with a thumping majority of more than 18,000, a lead highly unlikely to be overturned given the Tory 20-point poll lead, and in stark contrast to the marginal Wirral West seat the former TV presenter once represented.
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell infamously refused to apologise for his attack on McVey over welfare cuts, including the bedroom tax, describing her as a “stain of inhumanity”, and going on to quote an activist’s complaint that “why aren’t we lynching the b******?”.
Goldsmith quit the Conservative Party and stood as an independent in the December by-election, which he prompted in protest at the Government’s approval of a third runway at Heathrow.
Despite not facing a Tory challenge, his huge 23,000 majority was overturned by Liberal Democrat candidate Sarah Olney, as the pro-EU party effectively made the vote a referendum on Brexit in the Remain-supporting constituency.
The Liberal Democrats tonight questioned why Goldsmith had apparently thrown his hat in to the ring when the Conservatives still back a Heathrow expansion.
Tom Brake, Liberal Democrat MP, said:
“By standing as a Conservative after resigning over Heathrow, Zac Goldsmith has just lost his last shred of credibility.
“People in Richmond Park voted resoundingly against a hard Brexit and against Heathrow expansion, both backed by Zac Goldsmith’s Conservative Party.Instead they voted for the Liberal Democrat Sarah Olney.
“Zac Goldsmith couldn’t stand on a Conservative platform last time, so what’s changed?
“As a Conservative he will be standing on a clear pro-Brexit, pro-Heathrow manifesto. The people of Richmond Park have already told him what they think of that. Sarah Olney beat him once, she will beat him again.
“If you want to change the direction of the country and prevent a hard Brexit, this is your chance.”