Boris Johnson’s time in office as London Mayor has nearly expired. Some will express glee at the departure of an egoist, whilst others will lament the exit of an icon. Yet, any emotion towards Boris’ tenure will soon be transposed onto the competitors vying to fill Boris’ large (some would say clown-like) shoes.
Recently selected as Labour’s candidate, Sadiq Khan is a frontrunner for the mayoralty alongside Zac Goldsmith – the Conservative MP for Richmond Park.
In terms of his approach to political debate, Goldsmith is a conservative refraction of Jeremy Corbyn. Indeed, Goldsmith is an honest politician who is not afraid to defy his party over an issue that he believes strongly about. Goldsmith’s similarities with Corbyn do not end there, however. Like Corbyn, the Conservative MP is a keen environmentalist and an opponent of Heathrow expansion. Clearly, then, Goldsmith refuses to follow the herd.
Goldsmith’s conservative credentials only begin to kick-in when one considers his upbringing. Indeed, his father, Sir James Goldsmith, died in 1997 with a personal fortune of £1.2bn. Zac was educated at Eton – the same school that educated current London Mayor Boris Johnson, and Tory Prime Minister David Cameron.
Yet, Zac is very laid back in comparison to Boris, and has adopted an approach that many politicians seek to avoid – but one that is difficult not to admire. He is calm, polite, modest, and at times appears as though he would rather rescind from the limelight. You suspect that Goldsmith’s personal opinions correlate directly with his political stances. He is not a political chameleon; his beliefs are firm and unalienable – and this makes him trustworthy (a unique quality for a modern politician).
Goldsmith made headlines with the pledge that he would trigger a by-election if Heathrow expansion is approved by a Tory government. In general, the 40 year-old advocates a more democratic approach to politics. Goldsmith is the champion of parliamentary recall – the proposed system whereby constituents can trigger a by-election if they lose faith in their elected representative. This will give Londoners hope that – if Goldsmith is elected – he will always act in their interests and will continually seek their democratic approval.
But what policies will individuals be voting for if they support Zac Goldsmith?
Firstly, on housing, Goldsmith believes that the term 'affordable housing' is no longer applicable to the capital. He certainly does not shy away from the fact that £1 million homes are not affordable. Thus, he wants to build 50,000 homes a year in London – a plan to ensure that ordinary Londoners have a good quality of life.
Secondly, on crime, Goldsmith believes that safety and security should always be at the top of the agenda for a bustling city. Therefore, Goldsmith wants to extend stop and search powers, which he believes will ensure that Londoners feel protected at all times.
And, of course, Goldsmith is the lead activist in the anti-Heathrow-expansion brigade. Zac seeks to cut pollution in the capital, and believes that a third runway would not provide value for money. His strong stance over this issue will be respected by voters even if they disagree with his conclusions.
All in all, though Goldsmith’s Old Etonian background corresponds with the current London Mayor, his political style radically diverges from that of Boris Johnson. Thus, if Londoners demand change from the Boris years then Labour is not the only option. Rather, voters will be able to support a Tory with a twist.