The constituency presents itself as a safe seat for the Conservative Party, having held it continuously since 1910 (if including the 11 years by the allied Unionist Party from 1918), and in the 2010 general election, Richmond produced the largest numerical and percentage majority for a Conservative, 62.8% of the vote. The current MP William Hague, has held the seat since a by-election in 1989 and has held the posts of Leader of the Opposition (1997–2001) and Foreign Secretary (2010–).
From 1983, the seat was represented by the cabinet minister Leon Brittan, after boundary changes saw his Cleveland and Whitby seat abolished; however he resigned from the Commons in December 1988 in order to take up the position of Vice-President of the European Commission.
The ensuing by-election, held in February 1989, was won by William Hague, this was the last by-election won by a Conservative candidate during the Conservative Government 1979-1997. Before this, remnants of the Social Democratic Party and their majority breakaway faction who formed the newly merged Social and Liberal Democrats decided to contest the seat which led to vote splitting and from the perspective of both a spoiler effect. The SDP candidate, local farmer Mike Potter, came second, and Hague's majority of 2,634 was considerably smaller than the number of votes for the Social and Liberal Democrat candidate Barbara Peace which arguably could have been combined in one candidate instead (11,589 votes in third place). Hague has retained the seat at every general election since then and significantly built up the Conservative majority to 23,336.
In 1992 the Labour candidate until a few weeks before the election, David Abrahams was deselected after a series of rows within the local party over his personal life and business interests. It emerged in 2007 that he used the name "David Martin" when dealing with tenants in his various rental properties in the Newcastle area; and that he had claimed that he lived with his wife and son, though he had never been married. Divorcee Anthea Bailey later told a local newspaper she and her 11-year old son had posed as Mr Abrahams' family as part of a business arrangement so that Abrahams could create "the right impression". The Daily Mail posited this was because the constituency in North Yorkshire would be averse to "a confirmed bachelor who enjoys musical theatre".
At the 2001 general election, Richmond became the Conservatives' safest seat in the UK, both in terms of the actual numerical majority and by percentage. Although the numerical majority was surpassed by Buckingham at the 2005 election, Richmond has a smaller electorate and had a greater proportion of Conservative voters so retained the second largest percentage majority. Again from 2010, Richmond is the safest Conservative seat in the country, in terms of numerical and percentage majority.