Lib Dems treated me like a ‘cardboard cut-out’, says Sarah Olney

Written by David Singleton on 7 February 2017 in Diary

The recently-elected Lib Dem MP has put the boot into her party’s HQ.

In the run-up to the Richmond Park by-election, Liberal Democrat insiders made it clear that the party had a grand plan for stealing Zac Goldsmith’s seat.

“We are not throwing the kitchen sink at it,” said one Lib Dem source at the time. “We are throwing the whole house at this one.”

The strategy worked with the Lib Dems causing a major upset by overturning ex-Tory MP Goldsmith’s 23,015 majority. But now it seems that the Lib Dem candidate might not have been fully appreciative of her party’s heroic efforts in late 2016.

Rather, Sarah Olney has spoken of her frustration at being ordered around by party campaign chiefs.

“There was a lot of central office input and for me, what I found was that they tended to treat me like a cardboard cut-out,” says the MP for Richmond Park.

“I was the candidate, I got moved from place to place and sometimes they stopped treating me like a human being, which was a bit frustrating.

“It was like, ‘Sarah needs to do this, Sarah needs to do that, Sarah needs to do the other.’ I did call them up on it many times but they were just like ‘yeah, yeah, yeah.’

“It wasn’t terrible but it was just one or two times where they did things and I’d be like “What? What am I doing?” And they’d say ‘you don’t need to know’.”

The party's close management of Olney was most apparent immediately after she had won the by-election, when the Liberal Democrats’ newest MP disappeared off air just three minutes into an interview – leaving a Lib Dem spin doctor to apologise live on air.



Speaking to The House magazine, Olney advises other by-election candidates:

“I think just make sure that you’re a real person, and in particular make sure you don’t run the kind of campaign where you’re going to find it difficult to say hello to people in the Post Office when it’s all over.”

Meanwhile, Labour’s Rosena Allin-Khan says that being fit is key to doing well in a by-election.

“Physical fitness is really important. To be honest with you, for five weeks, I didn’t sleep one bit,” reveals the Tooting MP.

It comes as political parties are preparing for the by-elections in Copeland and Stoke-on-Trent, both on 23 February.



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