Zac Goldsmith: You Ask The Questions

The Conservative and environmentalist answers your questions, such as 'How would you help the unemployed?' and 'What is your biggest poker loss?'

Are you dismayed that green politics seems to have virtually disappeared from the Cameron agenda these days? Ian Mackenzie, Glasgow

They haven't disappeared. There's just less debate about green issues in Parliament. The recession is one reason, but there's another. When David Cameron became leader and prioritised green politics, there followed a competition in Parliament between the various parties, all wanting to be the greenest. When Gordon Brown felt that he'd lost that competition, he withdrew, and the debate ground to a halt. But we haven't dropped these issues. On coal, Heathrow, high-speed rail, clean energy and so on, we're making big progress. There's obviously much more to do, but have a look at "A Low Carbon Economy", which we published a few weeks ago. It is radical and a huge leap forwards. It's a shame it wasn't picked up by the press.

Has time run out for dealing with climate change? If it hasn't don't we need to take more drastic action than the Conservative party is prepared to do? Harriet Davies, Bristol

We're facing a crisis, and politicians everywhere are reacting far too slowly. But I don't believe it's too late. And I don't believe it's too much to ask of our leaders. Almost everything that needs doing is already being done, somewhere. If we took best practice in every field and made it the norm tomorrow, we'd be halfway there already. Besides, most of what we need to do, we need to do irrespective of climate change. For the most obvious reasons we need to learn to live within our ecological means. It goes without saying that nature doesn't do bailouts.

How do you feel about your party leader using private planes so often? Doesn't seem very green to me. Fiona Young, Colchester

I'm not aware that he does. Critics of the environmental agenda love this sort of thing. When leaders meet in Copenhagen, we'll see loads of headlines about their carbon footprints. In the real world, leaders need to move around. The only thing that matters is that they pursue the right policies, and that they provide leadership.

Did you feel betrayed by the Conservative party when they refused to adopt all your green policies? Henry Sorday, Brighton

Politics is a battle of ideas. You don't go into it expecting to win every battle. But if you feel strongly about something, it's the place to be. My report to the Conservative Party had about 500 policy ideas. It never occurred to me that they'd all be accepted. But I'm thrilled that a great many have.

Do you think too many senior Tories went to Eton (like you!)? Martha Jenkins, Putney

There are certainly a few people who went to Eton. But that's not why they are there. A party leader has a responsibility to put the best people in the front line, regardless of background. That's what David Cameron has done. Look at the front bench. It's a dynamic, diverse and impressive team.

What is your biggest loss at poker? Steve Nelson, Whitstable

I play a regular game with close friends – so it has never been about money. It's tournament poker, which means you can only ever lose the cost of the initial "buy-in". We play for small sums.

It must be great to have inherited large amounts of money but what do you make of your father's reputation for corporate raiding which put people out of work? Sarah Richard, Stoke

My father was very successful, and as a result I've been able to support hundreds of wonderful campaign organisations. Being able to do that is, in my view, the greatest privilege. So I have no regrets. In business my father was tough. But he had a good reputation. He created lots of jobs, and those who worked with and for him remained loyal, even after his death.

You went to Eton, inherited a fortune and edited a family magazine. Do you really think that qualifies you to be an MP? Jess Thornhill, Birmingham

These things don't disqualify me from being an MP, do they? A good MP needs to see power as a means to an end, not an end in itself; to have a vision, and to pursue it. I think people are sick and tired of clone MPs, and I think anyone who knows me, or has followed my work, knows I'll stick to my guns. Politics isn't, for me at least, a career route.

You claim to be a "localist" and want flexible business taxes in Richmond but won't you end up creating a race to the bottom for low taxes at a time when our public services are more needed than ever? John Jones, London

I believe political power needs to be handed back to local authorities and, more importantly, to ordinary people. One of the reasons people are disengaged from politics is that they have no real say. One choice every four or five years, in between which they have to accept one bad decision after another, isn't good enough. And locally, why bother voting for local councillors when they are stamped on at every turn by unelected national quangos? We need real, visible accountability, and greater use of direct democracy, where people can take power into their own hands. If we get that, then local decisions and even national decisions will be a reflection of what people really want. And by and large, they'll be right.

Britain, if the estimates are correct, will soon have three million unemployed. How do you get them back into work? Alice Nelson, Sunderland

By creating opportunities. Imagine if instead of wasting £12.5bn on a virtually irrelevant VAT cut, the Government had used the money to help small businesses and start-ups which employ disproportionately high numbers of people. With that sum, 25,000 small businesses could have been given loans of half a million pounds each. We need to stimulate small business growth, and a big part of that should be focused on green enterprises, as Obama and other world leaders plan. We will eventually emerge from the recession – but we can recreate those conditions that brought us here, or we can decide to emerge with a cleaner and greener economy.

Your sister was once married to Imran Khan. What are your observations about the current situation in Pakistan? Naz Ashraf, Leicester

I can't exaggerate my respect for Imran. He is a very rare thing – a politician who simply cannot be corrupted. In Pakistan, where politics is seriously compromised by corruption, he is a jewel and I wish him all the success in the world. Pakistan is a crucial country on so many levels. If it fails, the world as a whole will feel the consequences. It is crying out for honest leadership.

Do you think the Conservative "A list" is discriminatory? Julia Bond, Birmingham

Every choice we all make is discriminatory. That's the nature of choice. The problem with a political "A list" is that it implies there's a "B list", and no party should have one of them.

You were chucked out of Eton for drug use. What drugs have you used, did you enjoy them and would you like to see politicians take a more grown-up attitude to drugs? Alistair Walton, Taunton

More or less everyone wants to see a reduction in drug use. The Government's job is to learn from countries where drug use is declining. I'm not convinced that simply raising the penalties will deter people, but politicians need to be open-minded about the right course of action.

Last year you donated £7,000 to your local party while not on the electoral roll. That's a breach of the rules. Should we expect more of the same if you are elected? Edmund Jones, King's Lynn

It was a donation by me to my own campaign, and it was properly declared. It happened in the one week where I wasn't on the electoral register because I had just moved home. But I don't believe anyone could reasonably accuse me of wanting to bribe myself! Can you expect more of the same? I'm sure I'll make the odd mistake, but no, I won't be corrupted.

What's a perfect weekend for you? Douglas Foster, Maidenhead

No phones, faxes, emails or speeches. Lots of noisy children!

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are in need of a HR Manage...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager - HR Consultancy - £65,000 OTE

£35000 - £40000 per annum + £65,000 OTE: h2 Recruit Ltd: London, Birmingham, M...

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?