Very rich men who go into politics almost
invariably turn out to be duds.
There are a handful of exceptions
to this rule, such as Michael Heseltine, who made a fortune in publishing
before becoming a Tory
However, in my experience, the rule
is immutable when it relates to those who inherited family wealth rather than
made their own successful way in life.
Inevitably, they fail to understand
the daily struggles of voters.
In short, they are spoilt brats,
self-indulgently playing politics because they think they have a God-given
right to rule.
Zac Goldsmith is a prime example of
spoilt brat syndrome.
His father, tycoon-turned-politician Sir James Goldsmith,
sent Zac to Eton for the best start in life.
There is, it must be admitted, no
question that Zac Goldsmith is charming, with an affable self-deprecating
You can meet plenty of men like him
in London’s clubland, on exclusive golf courses and in overseas tax havens.
Easy-going and none too bright, they live agreeable but empty lives.
Zac Goldsmith, who gives the
impression he’s bestowing a favour on his fellow MPs by joining them in the
Commons, differs from most idle rich in one unusual way.
Along with his wealth, he insists
he is a man of virtue and high principle.
Voters should not be fooled.
It is easy to be as virtuous and
principled as Zac Goldsmith portrays himself to be if you can afford it.
Most Tory MPs are not wealthy
enough to risk their careers by resigning and then standing as an
To be fair to Mr Goldsmith, he promised in his manifesto last year that he
would precipitate a by-election if a Tory Prime Minister decided to build a
third runway, in support of constituents opposed to extra aircraft noise and
Mr Goldsmith is entitled to argue
that he would have been breaking faith with his constituents if he went back on
He’s also entitled to argue that this kind of principle is all too rare in the
increasingly sordid world of high politics.
So far, so good!
However, Mr Goldsmith was elected
as an MP on the Tory ticket.
Plenty of other Tory MPs have constituencies close
to the airport.
Yes, Boris Johnson (Uxbridge) and
Justine Greening (Putney) have fought Heathrow expansion, but Mr Goldsmith was
the only one who drew attention to himself by pledging a by-election.
There is, furthermore, a price to be paid for his apparent heroic
That price will not, needless to say, be paid by Mr Goldsmith
It will be paid by his fellow Tory
MPs, who must now add the challenge of Heathrow to a growing list of issues as
they battle their way through one of the most testing periods in recent
Prime Minister Theresa May enjoys a
tiny majority as she fights to press through with Brexit.
At a time when she needs every last
Tory vote in the Commons, Mr Goldsmith has selfishly quit the fray.
To put it brutally, he’s placed his
own vanity above loyalty to his colleagues.
But there is a darker reason why Mr
Goldsmith’s act of treachery is hard to swallow.
Although keen to present himself as
a highly principled moral crusader, it should not be forgotten that last summer
he fought one of the nastiest political campaigns in recent history.
He stood as the Conservative
candidate for Mayor of London against Sadiq Khan, a well-respected Labour MP.
Mr Goldsmith didn’t fight solely on
the issues affecting Londoners, as any decent politician would have done.
Instead, he and his allies targeted
Mr Khan, shamefully trying to exploit his Muslim religion.
Leaflets sent out by Mr Goldsmith’s
campaign accused Mr Khan of being a ‘divisive and radical’ politician — seen as
a coded message directed at those who might be uncomfortable with the prospect
of a Muslim mayor.
These tactics, profoundly at odds
with British tradition of not attacking a rival’s private faith — even
indirectly — were pretty unpleasant and, ultimately, Goldsmith failed.
The Guardian wrote that: ‘Goldsmith
is no decent man of principle. He’s a discredited politician who ran a vile
racist campaign and he deserves only contempt.’
On this occasion, I believe The Guardian was right.
Only two British political
campaigns since the Second World War bear comparison with Zac Goldsmith’s
unscrupulous attempt to capture City Hall.
One was the Bermondsey by-election
of 1983 when Peter Tatchell, the Labour candidate, was relentlessly targeted on
account of his homosexuality.
The other was the Smethwick
campaign in the West Midlands in 1964’s general election, when the Conservative
candidate, Peter Griffiths, campaigned on the disgraceful, racist slogan: ‘If
you desire a COLOURED for your neighbour, vote Labour’.
Griffiths’s revolting campaign was
successful, but he was ostracised by MPs for the rest of his career. Tory MPs
may think Mr Goldsmith should be, too.
Even his much-vaunted green credentials are suspect.
Ten years ago, David Cameron gave
Mr Goldsmith a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity by putting him in joint charge of
a Tory commission to shape its policies on the environment.
However, Mr Goldsmith was too lazy
to take advantage — putting no obvious effort into the task and failing to
force through his green agenda.
Cameron soon abandoned the green
policies that will forever be associated with his egregious Arctic huskies
If ever there was a principle for
environmental-campaigner Zac Goldsmith to champion, Cameron’s betrayal of his
green crusade was it.
Yet, as far as we know, there were
no resignation threats.
Maybe Zac Goldsmith didn’t want to rock the boat because, as a fellow Old
Etonian, he was one of Cameron’s allies.
Indeed, it was a result of
Cameron’s backing, that Mr Goldsmith was chosen to fight the prize seat of
Richmond Park — which enjoys a considerable Tory majority — ahead of more
Today, Mr Goldsmith has repaid that
privilege by turning on the party which launched his political career.
Ultimately, the livelihood of
millions of British citizens depends on the third runway at Heathrow being
The rest of us should applaud the
decisive act of Theresa May after more than ten years of indecision from the
Blair, Brown and Cameron governments.
Yet, Zac Goldsmith, at Mrs May’s
time of need, has stabbed the Tory Party in the back in a gesture of