Joseph Perry’s News Crunch: The Boy is Zac in Town
Joseph Perry crunches the news of Zac Goldsmith
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Zac Goldsmith has been given the go-ahead from his constituents to stand as the Conservative candidate in the Mayor of London election.
With Boris Johnson standing down as London Mayor after eight years in the post, the Conservative Party needs a charismatic candidate to pick up where Bo Jo left off. For many, Goldsmith is the man to stand in the 2016 Mayoral election.
Signs that Goldsmith would stand became increasingly apparent after his huge General Election victory back in May. He was one of few Tory MPs in London to excel, growing his majority in Richmond Park to over 35% (until 2010 the seat was held by the Lib Dems).
However, the 40 year old always maintained that he would never seek election if his local constituents felt it would interfere with his ability to serve them as their local MP.
A month ago, Goldsmith (who is the brother of media personality Jemima Khan) sent out ballot papers to his 77,000 constituents to ask if they would support him in contesting the right to stand as the Conservative candidate in next year’s election.
Yesterday he revealed the results of the primary. Some 79% of respondents believed that he should enter the mayoral race, compared to only 18% who were against the idea.
In the hours after the result, Goldsmith appears to have selected former Enfield North MP, Nick De Bois, will chair his campaign, with Lynton Crosby - the Australian mastermind behind the national Tory campaign at the General Election - on hand to offer advice along the way.
Although he is the favourite to win the Conservative nomination, he faces competition from businessman Ivan Massow, MEP Syed Kamail, and former England footballer Sol Campbell.
Why does this matter?
To start with, it means that the Conservatives may actually win.
Despite overwhelming national success in May, the Tories faired pretty badly in London. The capital now has its highest amount of Labour MPs in a decade. The stats show that Labour should, in theory, walk this election.
This would mean that, in order to retain the mayoralship, the Conservatives need a candidate who can attract broad support.
Zac Goldsmith has the ability to do just that.
The fact that he has a majority of over 20,000 in an area which had been a fairly safe Lib Dem seat shows how far reaching his popularity is.
Goldsmith has rebelled against his own party on several occasions, and continues to swim against the Parliamentary tide when it comes to installing the power to recall badly behaving MPs.
With Zac Goldsmith on board, the Tories are firmly back in the race.
This is turn means that Labour are starting to panic. They are currently halfway through their own selection process, but it is more important now than ever that they pick someone who is able to rival Goldsmith’s popularity.
From the first round of voting in the primary, the Labour election looks like a two horse race. In one lane is Sadiq Khan, Ed Miliband’s strategist and Shadow Justice Secretary, and on the other side is Dame Tessa Jowell, the woman behind the successful Olympic bid and Sure Start scheme.
Recent polling shows that only Tessa would be able to beat Goldsmith in May next year.
YouGov found that support for Khan and Goldsmith is gridlocked at 50/50 apiece. Whereas Jowell has a comfortable 14 point lead over her much younger rival.
Goldsmith’s decision to stand for the job may convince Labour supporters to back Jowell as the only candidate capable of beating him.
The other result of Goldsmith’s emergence in the race is a possible rift between the London Conservative Party and the Prime Minister.
Goldsmith is a staunch opponent of any plans to expand Heathrow airport, but David Cameron remains open to the idea should it be recommended in an independent report by The Airports Commission due to be released later this year.
If rumours are to be believed, Goldsmith is willing to run as an independent candidate for mayor should the PM back a third runway at Heathrow. This would be a disaster for all at CCHQ and almost resign them to accepting election defeat.
Turbulence along this journey is a guarantee.
This news has certainly spiced things up.
In a time of mind numbingly boring elections (Labour Leader, Scottish Labour Leader, and Lib Dem Leader to name but a few), the neutrals should welcome Goldsmith into the fold.
Sources within the Labour Party have told me that yesterday’s announcement by the Richmond Park MP got pulses racing within the party’s central office.
But this is a good thing.
Knowing that they are up against the very best that the Conservative Party has to offer, should ensure that Labour select the right candidate for the job.
This also brings important environmental issues, which were glossed over in the General Election campaign in May, into the spotlight.
Goldsmith is a long term green campaigner, having served as editor of The Ecologist magazine for almost a decade between 1998 and 2007. He will undoubtedly raise questions of London’s air quality and attempts to tackle global warming in both his primary contest within the Conservative Party, and the far bigger contest in a year’s time should he progress to the next round.
Goldsmith is a campaign catalyst. Whether he triggers Tory troubles, the selection of charismatic candidates, or just entertains the neutrals, it is good to have him on the very first ballot paper.
To hear Joseph breakdown more of the week’s biggest stories, listen to TeenScope this Sunday (28th) at 9pm UK time.