Ex-Tory MP Zac Goldsmith to retain ministerial post as he is made a life peer

Ousted Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith is to retain his ministerial position and will be made a life peer, Downing Street has announced.

The Environment Minister lost his Richmond Park seat to the Liberal Democrats’ Sarah Olney last week – with his support for Brexit likely playing a role in his defeat.

Downing Street said: “The Rt Hon Zac Goldsmith has been confirmed as a Minister of State (unpaid) at the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Department for International Development.

“The Queen has been pleased to signify Her intention of conferring a peerage of the United Kingdom for Life on Zac Goldsmith.”

His appointment comes after Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan retained her Cabinet post and was made a life peer as well – though it is thought she will only keep the job temporarily until a wider reshuffle early next year.

Richmond Park by-election
Richmond Park by-election

Mr Goldsmith’s Richmond Park seat was held by Ms Olney for six months between December 2016 and June 2017 when he triggered a by-election after quitting the Tories to fight Heathrow expansion as an independent candidate.

The 44-year-old had held the seat for the Tories since 2010, securing a majority of 23,000 in 2015, but lost to his Lib Dem rival by 18,638 to 20,510 after the party fought a successful anti-Brexit campaign.

The scion of the eponymous banking dynasty clawed back the constituency by the thinnest of margins, just 45 votes, in the snap election of 2017 after returning to the Conservative fold.

The 2017 result was finally called at around 7am after multiple recounts.

Mr Goldsmith was rewarded for his change of heart with the position of environment minister in Boris Johnson’s government.

But staunchly pro-Brexit Mr Goldsmith was always an awkward fit in a constituency that voted 72% Remain in the EU referendum.

At the December 2019 election, Ms Olney polled 34,559 votes compared to Mr Goldsmith’s 26,793 on a turnout of 79% of the electorate.