Louise Burfitt-Dons is a Conservative Party Activist and former candidate for Nottingham North.
The polls have currently got it wrong and Zac Goldsmith will be elected the next Mayor of London. This is because how the public vote has as much to do with the image that they hold in their minds of what they expect their preferred candidate to look like as anything they read on the back of the leaflet that comes through the door.
“A brilliant analysis of a simple, obvious and usually overlooked idea: that what people think about politics is formed as much by popular fictions as by media reporting of politics itself,” was what John Rentoul of the Independent had to say about A State of Play. Steven Fielding’s 2014 account covers how we are strongly influenced to pick our public figures by the way their stereotypes are portrayed on the TV.
If anyone doubts it they just have to look across the Atlantic to see how Donald Trump is faring. There is no doubt his status as the leading Republican candidate has been amplified by the confident and outspoken reality television persona he played as host of the high-rating NBC reality show, The Apprentice.
It is all to do with the right pigeon-holing. In his book, Secrets of Screen Acting, Patrick Tucker illustrates this fact perfectly with the following story. At a large gathering of ambassadors in London, brought together to meet The Queen, a photograph was taken and published in the press. A newspaper journalist saw in this the potential for a follow up article. He contacted several casting directors and asked them to send him photos of men who had been auditioned to play the part of ‘the ambassador’ in a movie. The actors were asked to dress for the part to fit with what they believed was expected of them. There was a full range of goatee beards, fob watches and waistcoats. But when the photographs were compared side by side, not one single ambassador in real life looked like any of them.
So the fact Zac’s a good looking guy is a great way to start. But here are just some of his many other attributes which guarantees his election in May.
Londoners love a touch of glamour. Mayorally speaking, Zac Goldsmith fits the bill to follow the larger-than-life Boris Johnson. Just as Kate Middleton has filled the void left by Diana with a quieter brand of panache, so will Zac size up after Boris leaves office. With handsome looks and a love of poker and backgammon, he evokes the right type of glitzy profile expected of a big city mayor.
Zac Goldsmith is a genuine planet lover, a past editor of The Ecologist and a respected environmentalist who was selling sustainability long before it was trendy. Current air pollution is the cause of 9,500 Londoners dying prematurely and the proposed expansion of Heathrow Airport, which he has campaigned vigorously against, could be an even greater risk to lungs and ears. But, just as important for casting voters, is whether he looks the role. And in this respect Zac Goldsmith fits the archetypal profile of the conservationist and concerned intellectual you would trust as Mayor knowing he would manage well all the environmental challenges London faces.
The issue of security cannot be overlooked. While people go about daily business stoically as if there is nothing to worry about, beneath the surface there’s genuine concern for city safety whether it be from home grown terrorists or gusset gropers on the tube. However, as well as his interest in the devastating mental impact of financial fraud, his work on child abuse and his clever campaign for a total ban on online sales of zombie knives, what might count even more in the election stakes is the fact that Zac Goldsmith is a dead ringer for Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry.
The Traditional Icon
London’s traditions such as the Chelsea Flower Show and Wimbledon are just two of the many reasons 17.4 million people stopped off here last year. They also came for more esoteric reasons such as to discover a little bit of Sherlock Holmes. While Boris typifies the English eccentric, Zac Goldsmith has the air of a lanky cricketer from the village green. With his urbane style and shy charm he personifies what foreigners expect of the quintessential British man and that will help to continue to bring in the £11.8 billion the city earns from tourism.
There’s hardly a business or public service in the capital which doesn’t depend on immigrant workers —so someone who genuinely understands the vital mix of cultures is essential. But with net migration at an all-time high and a refugee crisis sweeping Europe this is a tricky issue today. However, it won’t just be the fact that Zac roamed the globe in his youth exploring tribal life, nor his ease at presenting to events at temples and mosques which will win him the ticket, but his ability to visibly portray the sophistication and tolerance expected of someone who will in essence be a premier ambassador for London. Maybe he should have put in for that film role.