Sketch: Richmond Park

Boeings before midnight, Airbuses at dawn: that is the pattern of departures from Heathrow. In the first hour after the polls closed at 10pm on Thursday night, around 7,000 people fled the country by air from Heathrow – mostly aboard the stream of wide-bodied Boeings heading east and south. Many of them flew directly overhead the Twickenham sports hall where votes for Richmond Park were being counted.

The arithmetic at London’s key Lib-Con marginal, Richmond Park, proved so protracted that the winning candidate was still waiting for a first Sky News interview when the narrow-bodied Airbuses to Madrid, Milan and Vienna began buzzing overhead.

Richmond Park is a curious constituency in many respects. It is one of a trio of seats – alongside High Peak and Forest of Dean – to be named after a tourist attraction. Most of the electorate actually lives outside the ancient walls of London’s largest Royal Park; voters reside beyond the fallow deer, in the leafiest, wealthiest and prettiest swathe of south-west London. With the average four-bedroom house selling for well over £1m, Richmond Park is natural Tory territory. Yet the LibDems had held the seat since it was created in 1997; the former Mayoral candidate Susan Kramer enjoyed a majority just short of 4,000. Her challenger was the young man at the top of the Westminster candidates’ rich list, the “eco-Conservative” Zak Goldsmith – worth, conservatively, £300m. He arrived after the last of the late-evening 747s accelerated towards the Far East, and as the night dragged on his entourage expanded, notably when his elegant sister, Jemima Khan, joined him at 2.30am.

Both Kramer and Goldsmith proposed radical ideas on transport policy. She campaigned for Kingston station to be moved from Transport for London’s Zone 6 on the scheme of things to Zone 5, a piece of transportational gerrymandering aimed at cutting fares for commuting locals. He vowed to cut the number of short-haul flights using Heathrow in order to reduce the noise above leafy Richmond.

At seven minutes to six in the morning, the noise level inside the sports hall became deafening. As is customary, the returning officer invited the agents and candidates for a preview of the results in a corner of the hall. As is not customary, Goldsmith’s gestures gave the game away and prompted a chant of “Zac, Zac, Zac …”

The scrum that followed the official announcement would not have been out of place at Twickenham rugby station, opposite. Somehow I found myself face to face with the MP for a constituency whose name resembles that of a 1930s repertory actor. Goldsmith will provide the Tories with a useful shade of green. Would he, I wondered, expect a ministerial role in a Cameron government?

”I don’t know what it’s like to be an MP yet, let alone a front-bencher.”

He was not inclined to ask for tips from Susan Kramer, who he accused of “fighting dirty” with a campaign that “appalled” him.

Lib Dem canvassing constituency returns presumably pointed to a substantial loss; Kramer arrived at the count 10 minutes before the declaration and left five minutes afterwards. Her prospects, like the 6am TAP Airbus to Lisbon that glinted in the dawn sky as she left the hall, were heading south.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Service Engineers - Doncaster / Hull

£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...

Recruitment Genius: Employability / Recruitment Adviser

£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...