Sarah Jane Olney (née McGibbon; born 11 January 1977) is a British Liberal Democrat politician and an accountant. She was the Member of Parliament (MP) for Richmond Park for six months from a by-election in December 2016 to the general election in June 2017, having won the seat from the Conservatives.
|Member of Parliament |
for Richmond Park
1 December 2016 – 3 May 2017
|Preceded by||Zac Goldsmith|
|Succeeded by||Zac Goldsmith|
|Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Education|
8 May 2017 – 16 June 2017
|Preceded by||John Pugh|
|Succeeded by||Layla Moran|
Sarah Jane McGibbon
January 11, 1977
|Political party||Liberal Democrats|
Benjamin Olney (m. 2002)
|Alma mater||King's College London|
Early life and careerEdit
Olney is a qualified accountant. She worked as an accountant at Barclays, Arts & Business, Distilled Ltd, SCi Sales Group and the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington until she entered politics after the 2015 General Election.
On 25 October 2016, Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith announced his resignation from the House of Commons over his objection to his party's support for a third runway at Heathrow Airport, triggering a by-election in his seat of Richmond Park. Goldsmith stood in the by-election as an independent candidate although he remained a Conservative party member with the support of Nigel Farage’s UKIP, who along with the Conservative party, did not put forward a candidate. On 30 October 2016, Olney was announced as the Liberal Democrats' candidate for the by-election.
On 1 December 2016, after a overturning a majority of over 23,000 votes, Olney was elected as the Member of Parliament (MP) for Richmond Park. She received 20,510 votes (49.6% of total votes), giving her a majority of 1,872 votes (4.5%). She was the only female Liberal Democrat MP in the 2015–2017 parliament.
Olney's election campaign was marred by accusations of underhanded tactics by her party. The Liberal Democrats were accused of sending out leaflets which mimicked the colours and style of the UK Independence Party, listing endorsements from the party's leader Nigel Farage for Olney's rival Zac Goldsmith. The party was also accused of distributing imitation newspapers, filled with complimentary quotations about Olney. In response to these accusations, Olney told a local newspaper: “There’s nothing underhand or ‘dirty tricks’ about what we did. Our opponents didn’t like it because it was successful”.
Shortly after her election, Olney ended a radio interview in which she was pressed on her support for a second Brexit referendum. Supporting a second referendum became official Liberal Democrat policy shortly after.
In the run-up to the 2017 General Election, Olney was recorded urging Liberal Democrats to vote for Labour MPs in seats where Labour candidates stood a better chance of defeating Conservatives than the Liberal Democrat candidates. Olney referred to the Liberal Democrat candidate for Ealing Central and Acton as a "paper candidate" and voiced her support for the Labour Party incumbent Rupa Huq.
In the 2017 general election, Olney narrowly lost her seat to Goldsmith, who stood as the Conservative candidate, polling 45.07% of the vote to Goldsmith's 45.14%, giving Goldsmith a majority of 45.
On 9 September 2017 it was announced that she would be taking up the post of chief of staff for Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable. On 6 November 2017, Olney announced that she had resigned from the job after just six weeks, citing her determination to re-contest her former parliamentary constituency, and the incompatibility of this with the Chief of Staff job. Instead, she was retained by the party on her full-time Chief of Staff salary of £68,000, but for a part-time role as "Special Projects Manager".
It was reported by the Evening Standard in April 2018 that Olney had been interviewed under caution by the police for allegedly breaking official spending limits in the Richmond Park by-election. The Crown Prosecution Service ruled that there was no evidence and closed the case.
In 2019, she was officially confirmed as the Liberal Democrat candidate for the next general election.
On the topic of Brexit, Olney voted against the triggering of Article 50, as she had indicated during the by-election campaign that she would do. She believes another referendum should be held once the exact terms of Britain's exit from the EU have been announced. However, shortly after the referendum, Olney wrote on her blog that people must "come together" and "make a success of Brexit", adding that the government should not "re-run" the vote. Her blog was subsequently deleted after the post received press coverage.
Olney opposes the building of a third runway at Heathrow Airport. In November 2016, it was revealed that Olney's husband had worked for Heathrow Airport Holdings during its construction of Heathrow Terminal 5.
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- Mark Pack (9 September 2017). Cable appoints new Chief of Staff https://www.markpack.org.uk/151374/vince-cable-appoints-new-chief-staff-sarah-olney/%7Ctitle=Vince Cable appoints new Chief of Staff Check
|url=value (help). December 2017 Archived Check
|archiveurl=value (help) from the original on 3 December 2017. Retrieved 9 September 2017. Missing or empty
- 'H.P. Sauce', Private Eye, 1457, 17 November 2017, p. 14.
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- Pack, Mark. "Sarah Olney re-selected in Richmond Park constituency". www.markpack.org.uk. Retrieved 2 July 2019.
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- Post reply (21 November 2016). "REVEALED: Richmond Park Lib Dem candidate's husband worked on Heathrow Terminal 5". Richmond and Twickenham Times. Retrieved 11 November 2019.