7 May 2016

In defence of Zac Goldsmith


There are few sights more unedifying in politics than Tory politicians lining up at the TV studios to kick a good man when he’s down, but that is what is happening to Zac Goldsmith right now. So before any more ludicrous myths develop about his campaign for mayor of London, it is as well that some of the lies and distortions are met head on right away.

Full disclosure: I know and like Zac, contributed to his campaign financially and – despite not agreeing with much of his green agenda – was proud to be among the more than 994,000 people who voted for him last Thursday. That total was not that much fewer than the 1.3 million who voted for Sadiq Khan in what has been a pretty uniformly Labour city since before the 1970s, once the unique personal phenomenon of Boris Johnson is taken out of the equation.

As the Old Etonian son of a billionaire, Zac was brave to have taken on Sadiq Khan, who is the son of a bus-driver. For all that we are conditioned by the Left and the media to believe that snobbery and deference still exists in the voting patterns of modern British society, it is in fact the lowlier-than-thou routine that plays best on the election stump, and “toffs” such as Zac actually start off at a massive disadvantage against so-called “Men of the People”. (One of the reasons David Cameron won the general election in 2015 is that the British people rightly recognized little difference socially between him and the North London and Oxford-educated Ed Miliband; had the postman’s son Alan Johnson been Labour’s candidate things might have been different.)

Then halfway through the mayoral campaign the Panama scandal broke, and even though Zac has no personal control over his trust and the trustees broke no laws and never sought to evade legitimate tax, Labour and its lackeys in the media attempted to blacken his name by every possible means to link him to the revelations about offshore holdings.

Later on, sore losers such as Andrew Boff, the leader of the Conservative group on the Greater London Authority, who Zac fair and squarely beat for the Tory nomination, came out criticizing him for what he called Zac’s “outrageous” politics of unmasking Khan’s political acquaintances during his time as a human rights lawyer. Zac – who is half-Jewish – pointed out that Sadiq Khan had shared political platforms with Muslim politicians who had previously publicly stated their wish to “drown every Israeli Jew in the sea”. Boff said: “It was effectively saying that people of conservative religious views are not to be trusted and you should not share a platform with them.” No, it wasn’t: it was effectively saying that no mayor of a British city should share a platform with foul anti-Semites, which is a perfectly legitimate point to make.

When Baroness (Sayeeda) Warsi – a semi-detached Tory at the best of times, though still nominally one – then also jumped on the bandwagon and denounced Zac on Twitter as “Britain’s Biggest Bigot” for his “Dog-whistle, nasty politics”, it was clear that the Left was having its job done for it by Zac’s fellow Conservatives. Ditto Ken Clarke’s negative comments on Zac’s campaign. In fact, Zac was perfectly right to point out, for example, that Khan had employed someone who believed that Private Lee Rigby’s murder was fabricated.

Of course these people will have to eat their words over the coming months and years when Sadiq Khan’s former political acquaintances continue to spout their repulsive Islamist comments about the subservience of woman and the evils of homosexuality, whereupon Zac’s warnings about Khan’s lack of judgement will be proven right. His denunciation of Khan “giving platform, oxygen and cover to extremists” will be seen as prophetic, and we’ll see if the likes of Boff, Warsi and Clarke – and indeed Zac’s own sister Jemima – are then big enough to admit it.

I predict that the day is not far off when many more than 994,000 people will wish they had voted for Zac Goldsmith.

Andrew Roberts is a leading historian and a CapX contributor.