Zac Goldsmith has been chosen as the Conservative candidate to run for London Mayor in next May’s election.
The MP for Richmond Park, a vociferous opponent of a third runway at Heathrow, will take on Labour’s Sadiq Khan in the battle to replace the out-going Boris Johnson, who has been in charge at City Hall since 2008.
It means the election will pit a son of a billionaire, Mr Goldsmith, against the son of an immigrant bus driver – a contrast that is sure to be exploited by Mr Khan as he bids to win back the capital after eight years of Tory rule.
However they both oppose Heathrow expansion and whoever is elected will face a battle against the Government to oppose a third runway, if ministers back the Airports Commission’s preference of Heathrow as the location to expand London’s airspace.
Mr Goldsmith, a strongly-principled MP and independent-minded environmental campaigner, has promised to step down as MP for Richmond Park if he is elected Mayor next summer, which would trigger a by-election.
He won the seat off the Liberal Democrats in 2010, seen as a big triumph for the Conservatives, and consolidated the seat in 2015 by increasing his majority by a staggering 19,000 in 2015, meaning the Tories would be clear favourites to win a by-election.
He is a close friend of current Mayor Mr Johnson, who said he was “delighted” that Mr Goldsmith won the nomination and said he is “fizzing with ideas” for the job.
Next year’s Mayoral election is set to deliver a crucial early verdict on the appeal of Jeremy Corbyn. With London being historically a Labour city and Mr Khan having backed Mr Corbyn in the party’s leadership race, his performance will be seen as a measure of Mr Corbyn’s ability to win elections.
If Mr Khan fails, it could prove decisive for Mr Corbyn’s leadership, with leading moderates in Labour having told fringe events at the party’s conference last week that Mr Corbyn must deliver success next May or face questions over whether he is the man to lead Labour into the 2020 election.
He beat off three other candidates in a ballot to win the party’s nomination. His rivals were the MEP Syed Kamall, the leader of the Conservative group in the European Parliament, Stephen Greenhalgh, former leader of Hammersmith council and Andrew Boff, the leader of the Tories on the Greater London Authority.
Mr Goldsmith inherited his fortune, believed to be around £200m, from his late industrialist father Sir James Goldsmith, who founded the Eurosceptic Referendum Party in 1994. To what degree he was influenced by his father’s views on the EU will be of great interest during the campaign as the EU referendum approaches and Mr Khan being a strong advocate of Britain’s membership of the EU creates another contrast between the pair in the battle for City Hall.
In a resemblance to Mr Corbyn’s pitch to usher in a “new kind of politics,” Mr Goldsmith has promised to “mend our politics” by boosting democracy at the local level, and during the last Parliament he championed a move to make MPs more accountable to their constituents that would have seen voters having the decisive say on whether misbehaving MPs would face re-election. In the end a much watered-down outcome was voted through.
He has said one of his main priorities, along with opposing Heathrow expansion, would be to clean up the capital’s environment and improve London’s transport network.
The Liberal Democrat candidate for the Mayoral election is Caroline Pidgeon, who is currently the party’s leader on the London Assembly; the housing and transport campaigner Sian Berry was chosen as the Green party’s candidate and Peter Whittle, an author and journalist, has been selected as Ukip’s candidate.
Mr Goldsmith sought permission of his 77,000 constituents before confirming his place in the contest to be the Conservative candidate, sending out a postal ballot to each household asking for their consent.
Around 20,000 voters in his constituent responded, with 79 per cent backing his move to run for Mayor. The move was estimated to have cost Mr Goldsmith £60,000, which was paid for by himself.
While many praised the principled move and a sign of his determination to make politics more accountable, others said it simply demonstrated his significant personal wealth – characteristics that are sure to feature in the election campaign .
On winning the nomination, Mr Goldsmith said: "In the last seven years London has come a long way. Under Boris, London now leads the world in business, tech, media, art and culture - benefiting from unprecedented investment. It is why so many people want to live, work and do business here, and it is also putting increasing pressures on our city.
"We have seen record investment in our transport network, but we will need to continue that investment just to avoid grinding to a halt - while at the same time continuing to bear down on the cost of travel so that it delivers value for money for Londoners.
"Our living environment is facing increasing pressure, and we will need to protect, enhance and improve access to our green spaces, as well as radically improving the quality of the air that we breathe.
"But the biggest challenge of all is the housing crisis. Londoners are being priced out of their city and we will need a step change in the number of homes built, and the manner in which they are built."
Responding to the news, Mr Johnson said: "I'm delighted for Zac - he's principled, hard-working, and dedicated, he's fizzing with ideas, and he's passionate about London and its people.
"In May next year this city needs its new mayor to be a fighter, someone who's not afraid to knock some plaster off the political ceiling in pursuit of the best possible deal for London.
"Zac Goldsmith is that fighter. He's fearless. He will make a brilliant mayor.
"I have no doubt he's the best candidate we could possibly have to deliver the vital infrastructure improvements, new housing, jobs and growth London's rapidly growing population will need in the years ahead."Reuse content