Zac Goldsmith defends 'negative' campaign and brands Sadiq Khan 'not fit' for Mayoralty

Posted On: 
24th March 2016

Zac Goldsmith has defended the style of his campaign against Sadiq Khan, insisting the Labour candidate is "not fit" to be Mayor of London. 

Conservative mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith
Paul Heartfield

Mr Goldsmith has come in for criticism for some of the negative attacks against his Labour opponent.

But in an interview with The House magazine, the Conservative candidate for the Mayoralty insisted it was his “duty” to make clear to Londoners the danger of Mr Khan.

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Mr Goldsmith accused his rival of a lack of authenticity on a wide range of issues, including opposing Heathrow expansion, building on the green belt and the mansion tax. 

"The truth is I don’t know who he is. I don’t know what he stands for," he said.

“I feel now that I have a duty to ensure that London makes the right decision on 5 May... [If Khan becomes Mayor of London,] I believe that will be a disaster. We’ll have four years of bickering, blame, inaction; London will have a figurehead who is just, in my view, not fit for that office.”

He said he was prepared to accept the description of "negative campaign" if necessary. 

"I know that this campaign can’t just be about my offer to London versus his offer to London because my offer to London is based on things which I know I can deliver.

“That is not true of my opponent. He will fundamentally change his position depending on the audience he’s speaking to; he will promise things he has no intention or ability to deliver and it’s my job to make that clear... That requires you to point out where he is being inconsistent, where he is promising things that can’t be delivered, or where he’s flip-flopping all over the place. On all the big decisions, on all the big issues facing Londoners we’ve heard complete opposites over and over from the same man.

"If I want to make this campaign an effective one, I’m required to not only talk about what I’d do for London, but to make the choice very clear. So if that’s a negative campaign then so be it. I have to do what I have to do; I have a responsibility to get this right.”

Mr Goldsmith and other senior Tories have described Mr Khan as “radical”, and have also highlighted his appearances on the same TV channel as extremists.

Most controversially, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said Mr Khan was a “Labour lackey who speaks alongside extremists” and who “cannot be trusted” to keep London safe.

While stressing that he was not accusing the Labour MP of holding extreme views himself, Mr Goldsmith argued Mr Fallon's attack was legitimate.

“The point that’s been made relates to judgement. If you want to tackle extremism, if you want to be the head of the police which is what the Mayor will have to do, if you want to be the Mayor of the most important city in the world, there are questions to be asked about someone who is willing to share a platform over and over and over again with people who do have extreme views. And I think, really, this is a legitimate question to be asked.”

Asked specifically whether Mr Khan “cannot be trusted” with London’s security, the Richmond Park MP replied: “I think his judgement has fallen so short that he has to make the case himself as to why he’s fit to hold this post.”


Elsewhere in the interview, Mr Goldsmith spoke about increasing direct democracy for Londoners, the threat posed by Jeremy Corbyn to the Conservatives, what "pumps him up", and the use of "Islington" as a pejorative adjective. Read it in full here