Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Whither Zac Goldsmith?

One of the most remarkable turn-arounds in the last year has been the dramatic dropping of the green agenda by David Cameron. Hot coals don't come into it.

Up until July this year, Cameron was majoring on green issues. We had the hug-a-husky carbon-fuelled photo op, the shoe chauffeur and the bike and "let sunshine win the day" etc. The bright young thing, Zac Goldsmith was given vast prominence in the Tory diaspora. Cameron's MPs were starting to talk the green talk, with Richard Benyon, for example, saying: "Climate Change is the defining issue of our age....This is our Dunkirk."

Now where are green issues in the Conservative party? They have been demoted to the second tier of policy matters. George Osbourne poured cold water on most of the proposals from the Gummer/Goldsmith commission. When Cameron talked at length about his priorities in Oxfordshire last Saturday, he didn't even mention green issues. He listed his priorities: fighting crime, improving housing, education and the health service, but we didn't get anything on green issues.


One wonders where this leaves Zac Goldsmith. No doubt he is most gratified to be a candidate in a Tory target seat where they are rumoured to spending around £300,000 to try to get him elected. But the recent relegation of green issues by the Camster must be rather concerning for him. After all, Goldsmith does not exactly have a Tory track record, while his green credentials are impeccable.

Today, I was trawling through some old BBC Politics web site pages, as you do (or indeed don't). I found this interview with Goldsmith when he was first appointed as the Tory green guru in January 2006. He did not describe his loyalty to the Tories as inbred or automatic - far from it:

Zac Goldsmith was once quoted as saying the only way he would vote Conservative was if you "drugged" him first. "I can't remember saying that," he protests when we meet at the Chelsea offices of The Ecologist, the magazine he edits, "but it is not a million miles from how I felt".

His "endorsement" (if that is what it was) of David Cameron is fascinating, mainly because it leaves lots of room for future manoevre, if you know what I mean:

I don't know David Cameron very well. I like him. I think you can judge a book by its cover - whoever said you can't is wrong - that's the whole point of nature giving us intuition, instinct and so on. I think the cover is pretty good. I think the people he has got around him, who are helping him to craft this new identity, are good people so I am genuinely enthusiastic about it.

So, there is an obvious question today for Monsieur Goldsmith. Now that you have read the book, do you regret buying it?

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