Why Labour should be worried about Zac Goldsmith

The Tory mayoral candidate could win over both UKIP and Green voters


It was remarkable: whilst the rest of the country turned an emphatic blue, London woke up on 8 May as more of a Labour city than the night before.

As the party collected up 44 per cent of the vote, compared to just 30 per cent  across the entire country, seven London constituencies, from Ilford North in the east to Brentford and Isleworth in the west, opted to turn red.

It is certainly not surprising that Miliband’s message of equality and social justice rang so true in the capital. Indeed, the mystery of a party with its roots in socialism succeeding in one of the world’s greatest financial centres is not much of a mystery at all.

What the groans from the rest of the country about London’s wealth and dominance, whilst probably justified, miss, is the fact that the super-rich make terrible neighbours.

Driving up prices of everyday items, but most importantly property, the convergence of the world’s wealthiest in this city, has made ‘the cost of living crisis’ Labour referred to ubiquitous and damaging.

For most, the dream of owning a property has now become distant and unattainable. According to figures released by KPMG, the average salary required for a Londoner to get their foot on the property ladder, and that means purchasing a dingy studio flat in the city’s obscurest corner, is £77,000. The average salary is £28,000.

In the meantime, some of the country’s poorest communities, in Tower Hamlets, Newham and Islington, have suffered from tough welfare reforms, sending thousands of children into poverty.

Londoners have also seen the number of people sleeping rough rise twofold since 2010. Unsurprisingly, in much of the capital, the Conservative brand is the most toxic it’s been since Thatcher.

So, surely next year, it’s inevitable that we will have a new Labour mayor residing in City Hall? It seems likely, and the Labour party are certainly acting like it is, but since Zac Goldsmith joined the contest, Tessa Jowell and her colleagues should be quaking in their boots.

The Richmond Park MP had been widely tipped to run, but only officially announced his candidature last week, following an independently funded ballot in which his constituents overwhelmingly offered him their support.

In an election which exemplifies ‘personality politics’, and in which the voting system favours the least objectionable candidate, the Conservatives have found themselves the perfect solution in Zac Goldsmith.

Whilst he does not have a character the size of Boris Johnson’s, Goldsmith comes across as grounded and is articulate. In the last five years he has proved a very popular figure indeed, and presents a significant threat to Labour.

The son of two billionaire aristocrats, an Eton alumnus, and the spouse of banking heiress Alice Rothschild, the new Tory frontrunner hardly breaks his party’s elitist mould.

However, unlike many, he is remarkably difficult to accuse of snobbery or eccentricity. And, as one of the last parliament’s most rebellious MPs, it is equally as difficult to label him a ‘machine politician’.

In fact, Goldsmith is so defiant of the party whips and so far detached from the party leadership, he may as well not be in it. This will play well with London.

The MP, as former editor of ‘The Ecologist’, is also a committed environmentalist and a prominent campaigner against Heathrow expansion. In a city choking on fumes this will be invaluable.

In fact, airport expansion is such a hot-button issue in west London that his principled opposition to it could sweep up first and second preferences from across the political spectrum.

Goldsmith can also be encouraged by the fact that London’s 170,000 Green voters, whose second preferences are vital, are likely to be supportive of his bid.

Green peer Jenny Jones, who previously stood as their mayoral candidate, said many of her party’s supporters ‘very much like that he comes across as very green and committed and passionate.

As a Eurosceptic, he will almost certainly win the majority of UKIP second preferences too.

In contrast, the Labour candidates will struggle to build a broad appeal. The Blairite Tessa Jowell may drive many on the left away and is likely to be damaged by the press – they are unlikely to let her forget her catastrophic reforms to the gambling market, or the fact that her husband cunningly advised Silvio Berlusconi on how to manage his tax affairs and ended up in court.

Her main rival, Sadiq Khan, is just as open to attack. Endorsed by Miliband, Unite and Ken Livingstone, he will struggle to shake off some of Labour’s less favourable legacy.

The persistent low turnout, especially amongst the working classes, at London mayoral elections is also likely to work against the left to a greater extent than at the general election.

Despite all of this, Labour shouldn’t be too gloomy. After their success in London in May, they are certainly still in pole position for next year’s race to City Hall. However they cannot afford to be complacent. Mr Goldsmith is not too far behind.

Joshua Myers is a student and blogger who writes on British politics

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11 Responses to “Why Labour should be worried about Zac Goldsmith”

  1. swat

    I must say I was surprised when I heard Zac speak for the first time in the Commons as its a rare occasion; surprised that despite all his good looks and Green credentials and loads of money, he has the personality of a blancmange. I honestly don’t think he’s really up to it.
    Running London is not like running a small magazine like the Ecologist; its more like running Punch, or Private Eye. You need a thick skin and bags of humour and stamina. (ok Ken didn’t have bags of humour).

  2. Torybushhug

    Airport expansion is nothing compared with the multi faceted environmental downsides caused by mass immigration population increase.

  3. Slummedin

    Where does the aspiring political journalist place the responsibility for this?

    “In the meantime, some of the country’s poorest communities, in Tower Hamlets, Newham and Islington, have suffered from tough welfare reforms, sending thousands of children into poverty.”

    Has he actually examined the way the three local Councils are operated in Tower Hamlets, Newham and Islington, the ones he mentions?

    Where do the chains of causation start, what stages do they go through and where do they end in the sending of ‘thousands of children into poverty’?

    Why only ‘children’? Why not also their parents, their relatives, their neighbourhoods, who too must be affected by poverty?

    Or is that another comfy way to show the credentials that the LeftFoot is ‘on’ the side of the trendiest catch words?

    This article about Zac G is not at all original.
    Far lengthier plugs for him have already appeared in most of the
    Conservative Media.

    What the people of London need and what they never got from the
    Mayor post is accountability and democratic representation.

    The London Assembly is, politically speaking, worse than a joke as are the sets of councillors in Tower Hamlets and Newham.

    Labour will fail to resonate politically as long as it is stuffed with
    people who are too small minded, ignorant and lack the commitment for social liberation, justice.

    The stats about 7 May are not at all significant.

    You need to do a lot more than carry this kind of comfy pieces.

  4. AlanGiles

    Dame Tessa though? The posh lady who kept signing remortgaging forms because her husband told her to – and it never crossed her mind to read one?. The “colourful” husband she parted from with great noise, and returned to very quietly.

    The Erith & Thamesmead affair when she with other Blairites attempted to install 22 year old Georgia Gould, fresh from Oxbridge, (daugher of “Blair’s favourite pollster”) with only “part time work” at Blair’s foundation as work experience as the local MP?

    Jowell is devious and manipulative. Hopefully she will not get the chance for any further “opportunities”. The woman is also 70 – high time she retired

  5. stevep

    Labour must draw inspiration from Ken Livingstone.
    His successful years as leader of the old GLC (so successful, Thatcher had it abolished) and as Mayor of London, give heart to believers in progressive left-wing politics. The vast majority of Londoners could always rely on Ken being a man of the people and represent their interests and aspirations properly.
    Ken Livingstone has always worn his beliefs with pride. The Labour party nationally could learn from him and do the same.
    The Labour candidate for Mayor of London should vow to return to the ethos of Ken`s politics, looking after the people of London.

  6. stevep

    Airports allow British migrants to fly out to settle in many other countries too. Maintaining the balance.

  7. gunnerbear

    “In the meantime, some of the country’s poorest communities, in Tower Hamlets, Newham and Islington, have suffered from tough welfare reforms, sending thousands of children into poverty.” Boroughs stuffed full of immigrants – if they are not happy with the UK welfare system, they know where the front door is……

  8. gunnerbear

    Zac Goldsmith – the total f**kin’ tool who stood up for the green tools who damaged Kings North. I wonder how he’d feel if an angry power company employee burned down his office in protest at ZGs green stupidity and ZGs utter determination to smash UK industry?

  9. stevep

    Ken Livingstone. The man who looked after Londoners.

  10. Slummedin

    the daily mail es love tessa

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