Zac Goldsmith is a fabulous MP for Richmond Park – or Richmond and Barnes, as I will always think of it: the constituency in which I grew up. He was raised in it, knows it, loves it, and is woven into the warp and woof of it. This helps to explain why he now enjoys a stupendous majority of just over 23,000 – one which Jeremy Hanley, who spent each poll during my youth fending off the Liberal Democrats, could only have dreamed of. But the yellow collapse isn’t the only explanation of Goldsmith’s success. Last month, he won over 34,000 votes on a very healthy 75 per cent plus turnout, raising his vote in doing so by 8.5 per cent – a sign of what a formidable incumbent he has has become.
So I have no yearning to see Goldsmith push off, leaving a by-election in his wake – but he has not ruled out having a crack at the London Mayoralty and the Conservative selection that precedes it. He isn’t the perfect candidate (who is?), since he lacks the all-embracing reach that enables Boris Johnson simultaneously to scoop up white working class voters and ethnically mixed urban liberals before crushing them to his heaving chest. However, Goldsmith looks better placed to woo the latter than any of the other potential Tory contenders to date, and has a far higher recognition rate than they do. His opponents will say that he has no local government experience – to which he could reply that neither did Boris in 2008.
It is far too early to take a view on who the Conservative Mayoral candidate should be: after all, the field may not even be complete yet. And it would be a bit of a cheek for this site to urge Goldsmith to stand when we might end up endorsing someone else if he did. Furthermore, declaring for the Mayoralty would be hazardous for him. He might not win the Tory primary. Even if he did, he might well not win the election itself. In both cases, he could be left in Richmond Park with a bruised reputation. In any event, it’s very hard to imagine him deserting his constituents, unless to fight a by-election in protest against the likely decision to expand Heathrow.
Even then, such a move would be less a divorce than a holiday, since Goldsmith would doubtless sweep back as an independent – from which vantage he would presumably carry on speaking his mind all the time and voting with the Conservatives most of the time. (Thus prompting the question: what’s new?) But this is speculation. All that can securely be said for the moment is: his candidacy would put a rocket up a contest that has not yet fired the imagination. Goldsmith has a lot to offer. Prudence says that he should stick to the Isabella Plantation, King Henry’s Mound, Pen Ponds, White Lodge and the rest of his ravishing constituency. Risk and adventure say: go, Zac. go.