Zac Goldsmith, the Conservative candidate for London Mayor, is building his own teams of support. Unlike the Labour candidate, Sadiq Khan, Goldsmith does not have the readymade political backup of the trade unions or Momentum (an activist campaign that promotes Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s politics). Goldsmith relies on his four pillars of, more homes, better transport infrastructure, safer streets and cleaner air. His events command large numbers including pyramid style organisations that in turn recruit volunteer support and grassroots activists. He is thankful for the unconditional support of London Mayor Boris Johnson, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, London and county MPs and Conservative Campaign Headquarters.
While talking to The Sunday Guardian, he revealed that housing is his number one issue. Elderly citizens are worried that their grandchildren have been priced out of the London property market; the millennials worry about the same. Goldsmith aims to build for the gap between social housing and up-market housing, to enable the demographic that earns circa £34K a year to own their house. His plan is to build on publicly owned “brownfield land”, which is owned by the Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Justice, the National Health Service and other bodies. He will lobby the government to release that land, and has vowed to protect the transport budget so he can grow the network and make that land accessible. Goldsmith also wants Transport for London to take over all suburban franchises and over-ground train networks. His well-developed sense of aesthetics wants to build appealing housing with local community consent and not “hideous blocks”. His ecological credentials reveal themselves when he says, “We absolutely have to protect London’s precious green spaces, so many of which are under threat. The only way to do that is to grow the transport network to unlock the brownfield sites.” Here he is at odds with his adversary, the Labour candidate, Sadiq Khan, who proposes to take £2billion from the transport budget for development. Goldsmith says, “Green spaces would be decimated. Khan has form on this issue; in 2009 as Minister for Transport, Khan championed developing the green belt. When he was a Housing Minister, house building was at its lowest since the 1920s.”
Goldsmith wants to improve children’s access to the outside. He would use the mayoral funds to invest in at least 100 new “pocket farms” for schools. As MP for Richmond Park, he has pioneered a project, which has resulted in almost all primary schools in his constituency serving Gold Star Soil Association organic school meals. It has proved to cost less and more children are eating school meals.
He is keen on developing green energy—presently only 1% of London’s energy—by using publicly owned roof space and supporting community energy groups. He is not afraid of challenging policy as in 2014, when he proposed a “Recall” amendment for non-performing MPs. Last year, he successfully lobbied the Chancellor and avoided deep cuts being made to the Metropolitan Police budget, this on the premise of counterterrorism objectives being vitally supplied by locally based officers. With the budget protected, he is promising to put more police on public transport at night, which will make women feel safer.
Goldsmith is a euro-sceptic, contrary to British PM David Cameron’s position and with the groundswell of support for Brexit this might lift him in the final election. Goldsmith won’t be drawn into the EU debate. He says, “If Sadiq Khan is elected Mayor, there will be four years of bickering and blame, a four-year standoff between City Hall and this government, which London depends on. It is my responsibility to persuade people to make the right choice on 5 May.”
Goldsmith has previously called Khan divisive and radical. He explains Khan is divisive because his approach is uniquely partisan. Goldsmith says, “To be a good Mayor, you have to be able to work with the government, because London depends on the government for most of its funding and powers. Khan has no record of working with anyone outside his own political party. His politics are radical, he is the architect of the present Labour party, which is the most radical political transformation of my lifetime.”
Like all conservatives and according to the Conservative party line, Goldsmith does not favour separate manifestos for races, faiths or minorities. He has visited or had hustings in Christian churches, mosques, synagogues, Hindu temples and Sikh gurdwaras. He has visited every borough in every suburb. He is everyone’s Londoner.
What he enjoys most about campaigning is meeting the constant variety of people. Specifically, he mentions the folks at Bhaktivedanta Manor, the country house headquarters of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness gifted by the Beatle George Harrison. Goldsmith admired the care of the cows, who listen to sitar music and are massaged every day, who are retired and not killed once their useful life is over. Goldsmith only half joked if he had another life on earth, he hoped he would return as a Hare Krishna cow. He says Indian enthusiasm is infectious and he was impressed by how Prime Minister Narendra Modi communicated with the 80,000 strong audience at Wembley in November 2015.