“Part of what it is to be courageous is to see reality accurately and to respond well in the face of it." ~ Jonathan Lear

9 June 2015

“I will never, ever, vote Tory.” Except now maybe I might...



“I will never, ever, vote Tory.”

I’ve said this rather a lot over the years, but next year’s London Mayoral election poses a conundrum. Zac Goldsmith, the independent-minded, environmentalist Conservative MP for Richmond Park has thrown his hat into the ring for the Tory nomination. He ticks a lot of boxes for me that the Labour candidates don’t.

I’ll be blunt: if I had to choose tomorrow between Goldsmith and any of the hopefuls from my own Labour Party, I’d go for Goldsmith without hesitation.
Zac Goldsmith - hat now in the ring for London Mayor

So, why?

There are a few reasons. I would certainly never vote for a tribal Tory nor for one I had never heard of, but Goldsmith is neither.

First and foremost I like and respect his staunch opposition to the expansion of the sprawling monster that is Heathrow Airport (he has said he will resign the Tory whip and call a by-election if the government decides to go ahead). I was born and grew up under the Heathrow flight-path and have had respiratory problems ever since. Maybe they are not linked, but having an aircraft going over my head spewing aviation fumes every two minutes for eight or nine hours every day can’t have helped. Now where I live is under where Heathrow-bound aircraft sit in their holding patterns, often screeching over until past 11.30 at night - not great in summer when you've got your windows open. If this situation is not going to get better, at least let us not make it worse for many more people.

More generally, Goldsmith is a committed environmentalist. Now, detached from my distaste for the identity politics which dominates Labour politics, the environment is the biggest issue out there for me. We are progressively eating up our planet in the pursuit of more growth. Species are going extinct left, right and centre. It is about time we had someone somewhere in a major political position who gives a damn and can start to wield some influence against it. Goldsmith should do that; Labour’s candidates will say a few nice words but will continue the expansion of London into its surrounding environment as the population continues to explode. More urban sprawl is the only serious prospect they offer.

I’ve also admired Goldsmith's general independence of mind and respect for democracy, which is another issue on which Labour is weak (though the Collins reforms which let members of the public vote for leaders and Mayoral candidates for a fee of £3, is a big step forward).

As for Labour, what about the current candidates? I think the line-up is looking better than the leadership line-up, mostly down to the presence of David Lammy, who is the most impressive and convincing option for me. He is intelligent, thoughtful and independent-minded enough to appeal widely and do a decent job once in position. He has also been upfront about Labour’s need to appeal beyond inner London and areas with high ethnic minority concentration. But on the negative side he supports Heathrow expansion, continuing indefinite mass immigration and concreting over the Green Belt to provide enough homes for our rapidly expanding population to live in.

David Lammy - standing to be Labour's candidate
So, I find that on what are the touchstone issues for me personally, the potential Tory candidate holds more or less the same views as me (check out this on immigration for example) while even my favourite Labour candidate differs quite strongly.
[N.B. 10th June: In perhaps what is a harbinger of what is to come, Goldsmith's very sensible views on immigration have now been removed from his website. Thanks to Philip Duval for pointing out in comment below]

As for the other Labour candidates, Tessa Jowell as the female choice and Sadiq Khan as the male one have won most nominations from local parties so they must be the frontrunners.

Of these two I would favour Jowell above Khan, not least because of the latter’s staunch support for ethnic-based identity politics and his clear position as the candidate of Labour’s ‘machine’. He also doesn’t come across as particularly charismatic and I can't see him appealing much beyond Labour tribalists and client groups if put up against a decent Tory candidate. Jowell has many qualities and you would do well to find a nicer person in politics, but I can't help but feel that she is a voice from the past at a time when Labour needs to go somewhere new. (I do stand to be corrected on these points though).

Goldsmith is different and a much more interesting prospect. He has an opportunity to make an argument for quality of life over indefinite intensification, one which will not be easy to make. There will be plenty of pressure on him to dilute what he might want to say and do, not least from within his own Tory ranks and traditional Tory support in the City, from foreign zillionaires and the property industry. It cannot be a given that he will even win the nomination if these tensions come out in full view.

But he would be a powerful crossover candidate with potentially broad appeal. I hope he prevails and can at least make his case.

7 comments:

  1. I note that earlier Goldsmith's views on immigration were available and now they are not.

    A friend interviewed his Uncle Teddy for a BBC Horizon film called Icon Earth. Teddy saw what globalisation was from the outset, as indeed, at a later point, did his brother, and Zac's father, Jimmy.

    At the end of the film, Teddy says:

    ''Well, they'll say to the working people, well we don't need you anymore. We don't need you as producers because we can get people to work for forty times, twenty times, thirty times cheaper in other countries. We don't need you as consumers because we can export the stuff we make to countries where people are very much richer and can pay much more for them so we don't need you. And we can't afford a Welfare State so if you're not happy, we've got a big police force. You see? That is the sentiment anyway. We cannot marginalise three quarters of the population and get away with it.''

    I conversed briefly with Zac. Given that I am not a constituent he was far more courteous than most MPs, and he said his Uncle and Father had been a big influence on his life.

    Something however tells me, he is not to be counted on. I would watch for changes in his view on immigration to look for signs of them.

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  2. By the way, for what it's worth, if you can't get it through to London Labourites what is wrong with mass immigration, try this:

    - It is how we are being turned into America.
    - It is how they will finally break the Welfare state as those who cannot compete will be held up for ridicule and scorn.
    - It is how the rich have always suppressed labour movements.

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  3. Fascinating stuff on Goldsmith, Philip - and thanks for the pointer on his website and views on immigration (which I've added into the article). As for 'getting through to London Labourites', mass immigration is very much an article of faith for the powers that be in and around London Labour. It varies in the membership as a whole methinks, but we are basically committed that way, and discussion is discouraged.

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    Replies
    1. You're welcome.

      My final sentence was poor. It should have read ''I would watch for changes in his view on immigration to look for signs of how his views on neoliberal globalisation diverge from those of his Uncle and Father''.

      ''discussion is discouraged.''

      Says it all really. They clearly view it as a social policy rather than one which was demanded by big business and the global elite. Blair was a clever man.

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    2. Another quote from Icon Earth The amazing activist, Vadana Shiva:

      ‘’I think one of the things we are going to increasingly see in a very globalised world order is Third World situations emerging in the heart of the industrialised world. As work situations disappear, as the assumption of everyone having a right to work… and if they don’t have work, having a right to be protected as if they had work… All those assumptions are under very serious attack.’’

      And one for the 'socialists':

      ‘’The main purpose of the Bourgeois in relation to the worker is, of course, to have the commodity labour as cheaply as possible, which is only possible when the supply of this commodity is as large as possible in relation to the demand for it.’’ Karl Marx, 1847.

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    3. On your first point, it's a mixture of the two. There's the basic identity favouritism and wish to change society with diversity then there's the rationalistic economistic tendency. They come from different places but have the same basic ends - to improve the country by replacing many of its people with other, better people.

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    4. And what do they think will happen to those who are ''replaced''? What happens if they are of the same identities that they favour? Do they realise how precarious the labour market is for millions of people of ALL ethnicities now?

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