Sarah Olney’s victory in the Richmond Park by-election has been celebrated as a “ray of hope” at the end of what has been a dark-year in British politics, with Brexit turmoil continuing and the murder of MP Jo Cox.
The Liberal Democrats’ win over incumbent Zac Goldsmith was seen as a new beginning for some - “2017 making an early start” - and somewhat optimistically, by others, as the beginning of the end of Brexit.
But mostly, it was cause to smile.
“Next nail in the Brexit coffin,” was how one Twitter user described the result, while columnist Owen Jones rejoiced with a “hallelujah” and later wrote a column for the Guardian, headlined: ‘Good riddance to Zac Goldsmith. His Vainglorious political career is over.’
Lawyer Schona Jolly said Olney’s win should be a call to action for the Conservatives and Labour who she urged to “look and learn” as the 48% of “concerned Brexit voters actually matter”.
MP Anna Soubry shared a similar message on Twitter, but some took issue with the sentiment, pointing out that the views of Richmond Park voters didn’t necessarily reflect those of Britain as a whole.
However, lawyer Schona Jolly’s comments were echoed by Lib Dems Leader Tim Farron who believes Olney’s win proves even people who voted to leave the European Union do not want a so-called ‘hard’ Brexit.
He also suggested the victory would impact Brexit negotiations and was a rejection of the 2015 general election result and Donald Trump.
But, just like with Brexit, not everyone saw Olney’s win as a good thing, or that it would bring about positive change for the UK. It also inspired a few Brexit court challenge comparisons.