Ahead of tomorrow's Mayoral election, we asked Conservative candidate Zac Goldsmith on his views on London's future...
There's a housing crisis, music venues are closing by the dozen, and the cost of living is driving young people out. Do you think London is losing its soul?
‘I think there is a real challenge in London. I think it’s housing, it’s office spaces, it’s venues: it’s the same problem that affects all of them, and in a sense it is a consequence of London’s success. If London loses those spaces, it won’t be the dynamic, extraordinary place it is. But the fundamental challenge is to build more homes.’
How do you come out from the shadow of a character as big as Boris?
‘You don’t compete with him. Boris is unique in British politics: there is no one from any party, and going back many years, who is like Boris Johnson. So if you were to put yourself forward as Boris Mark II, you’d be in for a fall. My job is to protect the success we’ve seen under Boris, to make it work for Londoners across the board.’
Do you dislike Sadiq as a person? He told me that he thinks you're an ‘okay geezer’ and that he quite likes you.
‘You know what? The truth is, I don’t know him. We’ve never been mates, we’ve never had a social conversation, ever. So I can’t give you an answer, because I don’t know him in a personal capacity at all. I know him as a politician and he’s a very different type of politician to me.’
With so much of your focus on attacking Sadiq, aren't you running the risk of people ignoring your actual policies?
‘Well, I’m trying very, very hard to focus on the message. But you can’t not respond to things that have been said. I don’t think it is ever right for people to try and close down questions, debate, by being loose with terms like “Islamophobia”. I have been accused of that and, like any normal person, I am going to respond.’
Do you think people are shocked by your attacks?
‘The questions that have been raised – by the press, by Londoners, by members of my party, by members of his party and, yes, my campaign – are about his judgment, about his links to people with extreme views that go back many, many years. But I have never said that he has extreme views. I do not believe that he does, and I have never even hinted that he does. But I think there is an issue of judgment there, I think that is a problem.’
What do you think London's massive European population thinks about your pro-Brexit position?
‘I’ve done so many public meetings and events with London’s European population, and it just doesn’t come up, it’s not an issue. I mean, my job as mayor would not be to take us out of Europe or to keep us in Europe – it would be to make good on whatever decision the British people take.’
You voted for the cuts in disability benefits, against the mansion tax and for the bedroom tax. Is there a perception of you as being anti-welfare? Are you a mayor for the rich?
‘I am absolutely determined to be a mayor for all of London. It’s not just about solving the housing crisis, it’s not just about making London the greenest city in the world, it is about solving the problems that affect people right across the board. I don’t want to be a mayor of a city that is divided.’
In a city that has so much poverty, a housing crisis and lots of Europeans, are you worried that being pro-Brexit and anti-welfare will alienate voters?
‘My campaign has necessarily been a campaign for the whole of London. I’ve been in Bromley, Bexley, Havering, Redbridge, Barnet, Enfield, Hillingdon, all over the city, and central London as well, doing public meetings at every possible opportunity, and I feel that those public meetings are engaging people. The connection is a really good one, the response I’m getting is an overwhelmingly positive one, and that’s from people of all backgrounds – ethnic, financial, economic.’