George Osborne defends Zac Goldsmith's 'dog whistle' election campaign

Posted On: 
8th May 2016

George Osborne today defended Zac Goldsmith's failed campaign to become London mayor - insisting his attempts to link Sadiq Khan to extremists was "perfectly legitimate".

George Osborne and Zac Goldsmith campaigning together during the mayoral election
PA Images

The Chancellor hit back after several senior Tories - including former party chairman Sayeeda Warsi - accused Mr Goldsmith of employing "dog whistle" tactics aimed at voters' prejudices in his attempts to win.

Even Mr Goldsmith's own sister, Jemima Khan, hit out at her brother's campaign tactics in the aftermath of his landslide defeat.

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But appearing on ITV's Peston On Sunday this morning, Mr Osborne said: "Politics is a robust thing in a democracy and in elections there's a lot of rough and tumble.

"You are asked who are you, who do you associate with, what are your ideas. But if you can answer those questions, and clearly Sadiq Khan did answer those questions to the satisfaction of London voters, you get yourself elected.

"But that is the process we go through to make sure people are up to the jobs they are elected to."

The Chancellor said he did not accept suggestions that the Conservative campaign was "racist".

"All the questions we were asking are the questions we're asking of Jeremy Corbyn: who do you associate with, where do you come from, what are your thoughts and ideas?," he said.

"And these are perfectly legitimate questions to ask.

"I went campaigning with Zac. When I was with him he was arguing for more infrastructure in London, we were talking to young tech entrepreneurs. There was a positive campaign there, but obviously it didn't work in the end.

"When you lose a campaign, in the days afterwards every single thing you did was wrong. It's just assumed you got 100% of the things wrong. Indeed, when you win, you're regarded as complete political geniuses and everything you did was right. Of course, the truth is somewhere in between."

Mr Osborne also insisted that Mr Goldsmith still had a future in the Tory party.

He said: "He's a brilliant MP for Richmond, he's got incredibly important ideas about the environment, he's independent-minded.

"My advice to him is don't read any of these articles, switch off the TV programmes. Everyone will take a chunk out of you. If I was him I'd relax about that because that is part of the democratic process."