2017 has been a reasonably good year for the Liberal Democrats, but could it be about to get better?
Almost one year ago to the day, the Liberal Democrats boosted their representation in the House of Commons by 12.5% - or perhaps more honestly, the party gained the London seat of Richmond in a hotly contested by-election.
Sarah Olney became the party's ninth MP after defeating incumbent Zac Goldsmith who had stepped down to run as an independent candidate in protest over a third runway at Heathrow. The by-election soon became about the EU and Brexit, and the Liberal Democrats secured the heavily pro-remain seat, but lost it six months later in June's snap election.
One year on, and the Liberal Democrats could have the opportunity to win another by-election, thus increasing their Westminster representation by 8.33% (taking them up from twelve seats to thirteen).
Until June, Nick Clegg held the seat of Sheffield Hallam with a reasonably impressive majority. Jared O'Mara shocked the country - and perhaps even himself - by taking the seat from the former deputy prime minister. O'Mara was destined to be known as the man who unseated Nick Clegg, however, his parliamentary career took a hit in October when offensive comments he had posted years ago online were revealed to the public, something for which he has apologised for, as reported by the BBC. The corporation also reports that a women alleged that O'Mara had called her an "ugly b***h" in March this year. As a result, O'Mara was suspended from the Labour party, and is one of five independent MPs sitting in parliament to have lost the whip since June's snap election.
According to the Star, his office has been contacted, but there has been no response. On top of that, the paper reports that he has only cast twenty votes in parliament (as of 29th November) and his constituency surgeries have been cancelled.
It is impossible to know what will happen, but it is possible to imagine O'Mara stepping aside and resultantly triggering a by-election. Much will depend on the current Labour party investigation into the issue, which is ongoing, as reported in the Star.
The Liberal Democrats, who came second in June, are evidently preparing for every possible outcome. At the start of November, Laura Gordon was picked to be the party's PPC in the seat, thus preparing the party if an election takes place.
We are pleased to announce that Laura Gordon is our candidate for Sheffield Hallam! pic.twitter.com/y0zUDs8UmH— Sheffield Lib Dems (@SheffLibDems) November 3, 2017
Could the Liberal Democrats win back the seat? Two important factors would likely help the Liberal Democrats in a new election. Firstly, the party held the seat for twenty years - right from winning it in 1997 with more than 50% of the vote to losing it in 2017. Most recently, they lost it by just by 2000 votes. Secondly, if there is one party that should be trusted on by-election successes, it's the Liberal Democrats. Just ask Sarah Olney who won Richmond Park a year ago.
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