Zac Goldsmith’s ‘nasty’ mayoral campaign will put young Muslims off politics – Khan
Zac Goldsmith’s “nasty” London mayoral campaign risks dissuading people from ethnic minority backgrounds from running for public office, rival candidate Sadiq Khan has said.
Mr Goldsmith, the Tory candidate for London Mayor, has come in for criticism for some of the negative attacks against his Labour opponent.
Mr Khan insisted the personal attacks do not affect him, but he expressed concern about the wider impact on young people in Britain and their views on politics.
“It bounces off me – I’ve got thick skin – I learned to take abuse as an Asian kid growing up on a council estate in south London in the 1980s. But I worry about the impact on young ethnic minority kids – especially young Muslims,” he told the Observer.
“We need to be doing more to encourage young people from ethnic minority backgrounds to play a bigger role in society – whether being school governors, or standing for councils or for parliament.”
The Labour candidate to replace Boris Johnson also accused Mr Goldsmith of being “too weak” to resist the advice of Australian strategist Lynton Crosby, who helped orchestrate the Tories’ election victory last May.
“He’s clearly too weak to resist Crosby and co running a really nasty campaign. There is a real danger that Zac’s campaign will put the next generation off,” he said.
“It tells them it’s not worth sticking your head above the parapet, because look what’s happened to Sadiq Khan. That would be a real tragedy – bad for them, for integration and for society.”
A spokesperson for Mr Goldsmith’s campaign said: “Zac’s campaigning hard across our city on his action plan for greater London… As the only candidate able to work with the Government, he will always get the best deal for London.”
Mr Goldsmith has previously defended his campaign tactics, telling the House magazine it he had a “duty” to make clear to Londoners the danger of Mr Khan.
He 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," Mr Goldsmith said.
“I feel now that I have a duty to ensure that London makes the right decision on 5 May... 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 added: "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.”
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon came in for criticism last month when he said Mr Khan was a “Labour lackey who speaks alongside extremists” and “cannot be trusted” to keep London safe.
Londoners will elect their next mayor on 5 May.