The negativity of the Conservative mayoral campaign is both unusual and sinister
Image: Uma Kumaran
In an interview with Buzfeed this morning, Zac Goldsmith let fly with another of his fervent anti-Khan rants, which have become a staple of the mayoral race.
“We don’t know who he [Khan] is. His views have been so manipulated and cynically shifted on so many big issues affecting London depending on who he’s talking to, that it is quite hard to pin down who he is.”
While few politicians actually like their opponents, Goldsmith’s resentment of Khan seems almost obsessive.
Some suggest it’s to do with Khan’s race, a not-so-subtle attempt to sow fear about the prospect of a Muslim mayor. Others argue that Goldsmith simply has no strong beliefs of his own, and that negative campaigning is the only option available to him.
Whatever the reason, these eight examples showcase the unsettling ferocity of Goldsmith’s negative campaign.
1. In an interview with The Guardian Goldsmith insisted that ‘This is not a normal campaign for me . . . I have never run a campaign that was involved any kind of attacking in my life, but it is necessary in this campaign because I am up against somebody who poses a real danger to London. I’m absolutely convinced of it.’
2. At a campaign event in Woolwich last week he said of Khan ‘this is a man with no principles and who will trample on anyone and anything to advance his career.’
3. On one of their election leaflets, BackZac described Khan as ‘radical and divisive’.
4. When the Khan campaign criticised Goldsmith for his racially coded use of the term radical, he fired back: ‘I think he [Khan] is playing with fire. I don’t think there is anything more divisive than playing the race card when clearly, unambiguously, it does not apply.’
5. Speaking to Politics Home, Goldsmith said that Khan’s election ‘will be a disaster. We’ll have four years of bickering, blame, inaction; London will have a figurehead who is just, in my view, not fit for that office and I think he will be unable, because he’s unwilling, to get a good deal from government. And I think that’s a genuine threat, so my motivation has been amplified by the decision taken by the Labour party.’
6. In leaflets targeted at Tamils and Indians, Goldsmith implied that Khan couldn’t be trusted with the ‘family jewelry’ because of Labour’s support for a wealth tax.
7. The Tamil-targetted leaflet also highlighted that ‘as a government minister he did not use his position to speak about Sri Lanka or the concerns of the Tamil community’ (Khan, for the record, didn’t serve in the foreign office so such comments would have been outside his brief).
8. Goldsmith has exhaustively described Khan as ‘Corbyn’s man’, despite the fact that their politics do not align. Indeed, Khan was categorised as ‘hostile’ in the infamous Labour list.
Amid all this, Goldsmith insists he is simply being a dutiful campaigner:
I’m required to not only talk about what I’d do for London, but to make the choice very clear. So if that’s a negative campaign then so be it. I have to do what I have to do; I have a responsibility to get this right.”
Niamh Ní Mhaoileoin is editor of Left Foot Forward. Find her on Twitter.Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.