Cllr Peter Golds is Leader of the Conservative Group on Tower Hamlets Council.
We are approaching the last phase of the London Mayoral election. Shortly, the clocks will change and evening canvassing will start in earnest. As polling day approaches the electorate firms up on their decision.
The London Mayoral contest is what they describe in the US as an open contest. In the four previous elections the decision has involved candidates who were household names with all the advantages and indeed disadvantages that come with this premise.
This year we have two candidates whom the electorate will look at and decide who to support based on their actual performance leading up to May 5th.
There can be no doubt that Zac Goldsmith has grown into campaigning city-wide. On a cold Thursday evening in January, Zac came to help at a council by-election in the Faraday Ward of Southwark. Rob Flint, the GLA candidate, David Furze, our local council candidate and Toby Eckersley, a veteran of years of Southwark campaigns, led the group to meet Zac on their campaign trail. It was a small group but it could have been hundreds as far as our London candidate was concerned. This was Zac the local candidate, fighting with his supporters – wherever.
I have heard similar stories from other boroughs over the winter months. Zac has been delighted to meet his supporters and his voters – anywhere.
His meetings have shown a candidate who is calm, thoughtful and interested in all Londoners and their wide range of concerns.
He has also faced some pretty unpleasant personal attacks from an opponent who delights in dishing it out but most certainly cannot take any kind of criticism.
Some have said that his stands on Europe and Heathrow should be toned down. Why? He has opinions and principles. He cannot expect to agree with every Londoner. However, Londoners know they have a candidate who is not afraid to take a stand that may not be popular with every audience. Already, Londoners are working out that Labour’s candidate is a past master at saying what a particular audience wants to hear and hoping that other audiences simply do not notice.
A vast complex city such as London needs to be led by a person of principle, who may or may not agree with every policy of their government, but stands up for what they regard as the best for the city and its wide and diverse communities.
Goldsmith is not a tribal machine politician; the Labour candidate’s instinctive response to any question is to recite the most recent briefing from the unions – or worse, a Daily Mirror editorial.
The cynical ploy by Sadiq Khan’s union paymasters to delay the night tube has been exposed as a political game – as transparent as the Sadiq Khan posters on the Unite office windows for the process that saw him secure the Labour nomination from Baroness Jowell.
Goldsmith’s campaign machine is exactly where it should be. Day after day, across the capital are teams of Londoners genuinely enthused by a candidate who demonstrates calm, charm and answers to questions.
There are also some hard electoral facts to prove this. Goldsmith took on a constituency which was regarded as a Liberal Democrat stronghold. He won it and in five years turned it into an ultra safe seat. Sadiq Khan inherited a constituency that has been Labour, apart from 1955-64, since 1945. It took him just two elections to turn it into a marginal, a seat now so marginal that Labour are worried about a possible by election should he become Mayor.
Exactly eight years ago, when polls showed Ken Livingstone moving ahead of Boris Johnson, Neil Kinnock made one of the most memorable comments ever regarding Ken Livingstone, “Everyone likes Ken, except the people who know him.”
This past weekend a helper in Whitechapel received a calling card from the Labour Party. It featured the local Labour Member of Parliament, the Labour Mayor of Tower Hamlets, and the Labour GLA candidate. Missing was Sadiq Khan.
Does Neil Kinnock have anything to say this time? We would all like to hear it.