The decision by Zac Goldsmith to seek re-selection in Richmond Park in the upcoming General Election seems like a desperate plea for attention combined with a lack of understanding of reality. The fact that the local Conservative party has now actually chosen him defies belief. How many elections does Zac Goldsmith need to lose before the Conservative Party stop viewing him as their golden boy?
Last year, when I stood aside in Richmond Park, I said: “I am taking a principled stand, hoping to send a real message to this government: Richmond Park does not want an MP who has failed his constituents over Heathrow and Brexit and is endorsed by UKIP – the people of south west London want a tolerant Britain, not the closed, small-minded one offered by this Government.”
These factors still apply.
Goldsmith made Heathrow expansion his calling card, but was unable to stop it happening. Clearly he is just one person, but even when he was a member of the party of power, his powers of persuasion failed. An ex-civil service friend tells me Zac was not regarded as effective, since he preferred to stay in his office emailing ministers rather than actually meeting with them. So, not a persuader nor a team player. Further, Westminster data shows (as highlighted by Twickenham resident and political commentator Chris Key) that Goldsmith spoke in Parliament a mere eight times in the year preceding his resignation. Tim Brake, LibDem MP for Sutton, and Tania Mathias, Conservative MP for Twickenham, spoke 153 and 58 times respectively. Re-electing Goldsmith in last year’s by-election would not have put the brakes on Runway Three. Electing him now will be equally pointless.
Leaving the EU is in Zac’s blood. His father James Goldsmith set up the Referendum Party. The younger Goldsmith does not want the UK to be in the EU, whereas Richmond voted overwhelmingly to Remain. There is a complete disconnect between what Zac fundamentally believes and what his residents want. They told him that in last year’s by-election when they deserted him in their droves overturning the 23,000 majority they had given him just 18 months before. Richmond is still Remain – if the local Conservatives had chosen a pro-EU candidate then a race might really have been on between them and LibDem Sarah Olney. Now it appears they no longer respect their voters, making the assumption that he will win their support their again.
The Conservatives could not be more wrong. Voters still remember Goldsmith’s racially divisive Mayoral campaign, with its attempts to link Sadiq Kahn with extremism and terrorism and his leaflets with messages to the Indian community saying Labour supports a ‘wealth tax on family jewellery’ (if the electorate has forgotten, you know rivals will remind them). His campaign manager, Lynton Crosby, was fingered as the one responsible for these vile tactics and, almost as unbelievably as Zac being back, Crosby is now at the heart of the Theresa May’s election campaign. Maybe this General Election will show that like Goldsmith, he and the Tories have lost the golden touch.