Boris Johnson, Breferendum, Brexit, David Cameron, EU, Europe, Heathrow, Jan Zylinski, jeremy corbyn, Ken Livingstone, London, Mayor, Muslim, politics, referendum, Richmond, Sadiq Khan, Semitic, UKIP, Zac Goldsmith
Zac Goldsmith MP, who happens to represent my Richmond constituency, will be remaining as my MP – notwithstanding a change of heart following the way he has been heckled after losing the election to become London Mayor this week.
And one might not blame him. He had been a strong candidate who ticked a lot of boxes as an eco-warrior opposed to London Heathrow Airport’s expansion. His one indiscretion this year was voting for the Government’s disability rights reforms – which cost him his tenure at a disability charity in the London Borough of Richmond.
Yet a day after the result, it seems that Goldsmith is being lampooned not only by his opponents across the political spectrum but also from within his ranks.
Whatever Defence Secretary Michael Fallon thought or will think about Labour’s victor for London Mayor, the first Muslim Mayor, Sadiq Khan, there is no point calling Goldsmith’s campaign “racist”.
It is evident that a lot of people in the Conservative party spoke out in favour of Goldsmith in the campaign – and not always in a very elegant manner. Even Prime Minister David Cameron, as well as Fallon (who had asked whether London was safe with Khan as Mayor), did their bit to destroy Goldsmith’s chances. His advisers may also have failed him.
But looking at his campaign, I am struggling to see where and when he was racist. At one point he did remark that with Jewish roots he was contesting for the London Mayor against a Muslim who was the official candidate of Labour, the only serious contender this time around.
But that was in jest and there was no indication that he meant to offend Khan or anyone else. If anything it was warming to see that people of different religious backgrounds were able to contest a job in a mature democracy like this.
It is always easy to batter a candidate after he failed to win. Yet more spectacularly when the victor Khan has achieved something far more remarkable: Khan’s victory gives him the largest personal mandate of any politician in UK history and ends eight years of Conservative control of City Hall. The former Labour MP and minister, 45, becomes London’s third mayor after Labour’s Ken Livingstone and the Conservatives’ Boris Johnson.
Of the 12 candidates, after the first round (hence excluding second preferences) the top five looked as follows:
Sadiq Khan (Labour) 1,148,716 (44.23 per cent)
Zac Goldsmith (Conservatives) 909,755 (35.03 per cent)
Sian Berry (Green) 150,673 (5.80 per cent)
Caroline Pidgeon (LD) 120,005 (4.62 per cent). Lose deposit
Peter Whittle (Ukip) 94,373 (3.63 per cent). Lose deposit
The question might be asked whether the Conservatives seriously wanted Goldsmith to win. He was opposed to Heathrow expansion. And Goldsmith was also in favour of Brexit.
Certainly, Khan has expressed opposition to a third runway at Heathrow, but it will be less damaging for the Government to have to wrestle with a Labour Mayor than one of their own.
Goldsmith was from a privileged background. His billionaire father who set up the Referendum Party – a kind of predecessor to UKIP – did offer an image of someone from a silver spoon background and did make it harder for his son to win. Witness what happened to poor, if not impoverished, Jan Zylinkski.
“Prince Zylinski”, the millionaire Polish eccentric, decided he didn’t need to identify with his actual first name, Jan, and instead on his ballot paper gave voters a chance to ridicule and humiliate him. He played up his privileged status as a former aristocrat and was sorely punished as all who make such claims tend to be through history. He polled just 13,202, or 0.51%, as an Independent candidate and was behind even the BNP candidate. Both will lose their deposit.
So what really went wrong? Europe
So what really did go wrong for Goldsmith? If we step aside from the vitriol against Goldsmith – which is just as vocal within the Conservative camp and now risks the media labelling the Tories another anti-Semitic party alongside recent accusations of the same for Labour under leader Jeremy Corbyn – we see an underlying cause.
For my money, his privileged status which he sought to dumb down, was not his real downfall. It was his view over the European Union.
He shared the view of incumbent Mayor Johnson that Britain would be best out of the EU. He made his views known repeatedly. And in a way, his remarks while perhaps of national appeal, sank badly in London. Put simply, it was the wrong audience.
In many ways the vote against Goldsmith was an indication of just how pro-Europe London is. With a sizeable immigrant workforce from Europe and one which – perhaps misplaced -fears repatriation or job losses if Britain leaves the EU, or “Brexit as it is known on Twitter, talking endlessly about Europe was a way of killing the campaign.
It was difficult to hear the pro messages and positive policies from a candidate with a lot to offer London – when instead it was so often about a national debate over whether to stay in the EU.
In that sense, the Mayoral election was largely an opinion poll, at taxpayers’ expense, of just how much London is against Brexit. It may not represent the views of the country Shires but cosmopolitan London is likely to vote to remaining in the EU.
The Brexit-Remaining in EU #Breferendum as I coin it on Twitter, will take place on June 23. And let’s face it, even premier David Cameron who wants to remain in the EU would have seen a Mayor Goldsmith as a massive thorn in his side in the next 6 weeks of campaigning. So it really does look like the Conservatives were not at all in favour of a Goldsmith win last Thursday. But sabotage is all too common in politics.