The son of a multibillionaire, Frank Zacharias Robin Goldsmith is a man who needs not work, so one wonders why he would struggle to become mayor of London, after Boris Johnson’s mandate ends next year. The fact is that on 2 October, the young (40) and glamorous Zac Goldsmith was selected as the Conservative candidate for the London mayoral election, 2016.
Zac Goldsmith will battle against Sadiq Khan, candidate of the fiendish Labour, son of a Muslim bus driver who grew up in a tower block, on a council flat.
The Goldsmiths themselves are originally of German Jewish descent, but Zac’s sister, Jemima, married Imran Khan, the Pakistani cricketer, and converted to Islam. Zac, in exchange, married Alice Rothschild, heiress of another financial empire.
Both Sadiq Khan with his background, and Zac Goldsmith with his touch of Pakistani glamour, through his sister, could cater to London’s Muslim population, although, when it comes to personal fortune, their messages and strategies couldn’t be more different and opposed.
Zac inherited from his father, the tycoon James Goldsmith (died 1997), between £200m and £300m of the estate.
Oh, no, another Etonian, some shout upon hearing that millionaire Zac wants to preside over the fate of London. But Zac managed to make himself be expelled from Eton College (his father’s Alma Mater) for smoking cannabis, finishing his schooling at the Cambridge Centre for Sixth Form Studies. He then travelled the world, working for environmental think tanks in the US and even spending time living in an ashram in India (this should please New Age middle class intellectuals).
Both his father James and his uncle Teddy were controversial characters. The father, a devout anti-European, acted for a while as a French MEP (having both nationalities).
His uncle, Teddy (died 2009), James’s elder brother, was a modern-day rich Rousseau who thrived on paradoxes and was obsessed by eugenics. Founding editor and publisher of The Ecologist, and founder of the Ecology Party, which later became the Green Party, Teddy once suggested, according to the British Daily Telegraph, that “the optimum population for the planet was 50,000.”
For a while, Zac was himself chief editor of the Ecologist. He is also president of the Mihai Eminescu Trust, which conserves and maintains communities in Transylvania (Romania), and the philanthropic organization Fortune Forum.
An almost religious ecologist, as things go, Zac sits since 2010 in the Chamber of Commons, where he very often had to embrace positions against his own camp. He thus opposed the extension of the Heathrow airport. He is also against the nuclear, exactly like the new Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, a contradiction that doesn’t bother any of the two. Contrary to most Tories, he is a firm believer in global warming.
What is Zac’s program? Not much politics. “I will build social lodgings without destroying green spaces”, he promised. This sounds appealing to voters. Rents and lodging are the first worry for most Londoners.
Zac is also an advocate of direct democracy, such as Switzerland’s model of using referendums, but here he might get into a contradiction, because he will have to conciliate this with his anti-european views, which means that most EU citizens living in London will be tempted to vote for his rival, Sadiq Khan. Ironically, Khan seems to also be getting the votes of the Jewish community from North London, massively opposed to Brexit.
In London, as in Scotland, Euroscepticism may prove to be a major drawback. Zac is totally anti-EU and he might need to dilute his message. That will be hard. His father created the Referendum party, ancestor of Ukip, while his mother Annabel (an Anglo-Irish aristocrat) is busy financing the Brexit campaign.
And, finally, a major hurdle will be the hostility of the very influent Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, who cannot stand the Goldsmith/Johnson duo.
Zac’s Hollywood grin and promises of cheap lodging might not be enough to seduce Londoners.