Zac Goldsmith

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Zac Goldsmith
MP
Zac Goldsmith rally crop.jpg
Member of Parliament
for Richmond Park
Incumbent
Assumed office
6 May 2010
Preceded by Susan Kramer
Majority 4,091 (6.9%)
Personal details
Born Frank Zacharias Robin Goldsmith
(1975-01-20) 20 January 1975 (age 39)
City of Westminster, London, England, UK
Nationality British
Political party Conservative
Spouse(s) Sheherazade Ventura-Bentley (1999–2010, div.)
Alice Miranda Rothschild
(2013–present)
Children 4
Education Eton College
Profession Politician
Website zacgoldsmith.com

Frank Zacharias Robin Goldsmith (born 20 January 1975) is a British Conservative politician and journalist who has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for Richmond Park since 2010.

From 1998 to 2007 he was the editor of The Ecologist magazine, also becoming a London campaigner and commentator on environmental issues.[1] He was appointed Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Quality of Life Policy Group in 2005, co-authoring its report published in 2007. He was placed on the Conservative "A-List" of prospective parliamentary candidates by David Cameron, then-Leader of the Opposition, in 2006.[2][3] Through an open primary in March 2007, he was chosen to contest the constituency of Richmond Park against incumbent Liberal Democrat Susan Kramer.[4] At the 2010 election, he won the seat with a majority of 4,091.[5] On 15 July 2010, a Channel 4 News investigation raised questions over his election expenses.[6]

Early life[edit]

Born at Westminster Hospital in London, Goldsmith is the middle child of Sir James Goldsmith and his third wife, the Anglo-Irish aristocrat, Lady Annabel Vane-Tempest-Stewart. Goldsmith was raised at Ormeley Lodge in Ham with his siblings, Jemima and Ben. He has five paternal half-siblings,[7] and is also half-brother to Robin and India Jane Birley, his mother's children from her first marriage.[8] His maternal great-grandfather was the 7th Marquess of Londonderry, the well-known Ulster Unionist politician.

As a child, Goldsmith was an avid reader of naturalist Gerald Durrell's work[9] and had a committed passion for Sir David Attenborough's wildlife programmes.[10] He later recalled, "[Attenborough] was my hero, and it was his work that made me fall in love with the natural world."[11] His ecological interests were further nourished when his father gave him a copy of Helena Norberg-Hodge's book Ancient Futures, with a note saying, "This will change your life."[12]

Education[edit]

Goldsmith was educated at four independent schools: at King's House School in Richmond and The Mall School in Twickenham, followed by Hawtreys School, near Great Bedwyn in Wiltshire,[13] and Eton College in Berkshire,[9] and later earned four A Levels as a student at the Cambridge Centre for Sixth-form Studies,[12] after having been expelled from Eton for possession of cannabis.[14]

Travels[edit]

Goldsmith travelled with the International Honours Programme, affiliated with his uncle, Edward Goldsmith, through New Zealand, Mexico, Hungary, Italy and Thailand. Goldsmith lived in California for two years, working first for an organisation called Redefining Progress from 1995 to 1996 and later as a researcher for Norberg-Hodge's International Society for Ecology and Culture (ISEC) during 1996–98.[15] While working with ISEC, Goldsmith travelled to India. He spent a short time on an ashram in Rajasthan and lived in Ladakh for six months, studying traditional cultures and helping run a tourist education programme.[16][17] After his father's death in 1997, Zac reportedly inherited between £200 and £300 million from his father's reported £1.2 billion fortune.[18]

Writing and journalism[edit]

In 1997, Goldsmith was appointed reviews editor of The Ecologist, by his uncle Edward Goldsmith, founding editor, owner and publisher of the magazine.[19][20][21] In 1998, he became editor-in-chief and director of The Ecologist, but did not draw a salary.[12] He relaunched the magazine on 28 March 2000 in a new format. He transformed the academic journal style of the publication into a current affairs magazine format to broaden its appeal, and trebled its circulation.[12][22] In January 2006, after indicating his interest in electoral politics, he announced he was stepping down as editor.[23]

Goldsmith speaks and writes about environmental causes in Britain, which includes debating twice at the Oxford Union and delivering keynote addresses.[24][25] He has written for UK newspapers including the Daily Mail,[26] Evening Standard,[27] Observer,[28] and the Telegraph.[29][30] He is also a contributor to magazines such as the New Statesman[31] and Quintessentially Magazine.[32]

He is a contributing author of the book We Are One: A Celebration of Tribal Peoples, published in late 2009.[33] The book explores the culture of peoples around the world, portraying both its diversity and the threats it faces. Among other contributors are several western writers, such as Laurens van der Post, Noam Chomsky, Claude Lévi-Strauss, and also indigenous peoples, such as Davi Kopenawa Yanomami and Roy Sesana. The book is composed of a collection of photographs, statements from tribal people, and essays from international authors, politicians, philosophers, poets, artists, journalists, anthropologists, environmentalists and photojournalists. In his essay, Goldsmith talks about how his travel through the world in his youth gave him first-hand experience of the misery brought by the promise of western "progress" and "development". He reflects on the culture of these people and, in reverence to it, urges people in the modern world to question what "progress" can really mean.[34] The royalties from the sale of this book go to the indigenous rights organisation, Survival International.

He is also the author of The Constant Economy, which outlines his political principles and concrete policies that Britain could implement for a sustainable economy.

Political career[edit]

Quality of Life Policy group[edit]

In December 2005, David Cameron appointed Goldsmith as the deputy chairman, under former environment secretary John Gummer, of a Quality of Life Policy Group.[10] The commission was entrusted with the responsibility of examining quality-of-life issues such as carbon emissions and climate change, clean air and transport, and to offer policy ideas based on the review.[35] The group's 600-page report, co-authored by Goldsmith and Gummer, was published at the Royal Institute of British Architects on 13 September 2007.[36]

The report's recommendations included increased taxes on short-haul flights and highly polluting vehicles, with the proceeds being used to cut the cost of clean alternatives; rebates on stamp duty and council tax for people who improve the energy efficiency of their homes; and a moratorium on airport expansions.[37]

The report drew criticism from the Labour Party, along with MEP Roger Helmer who termed the proposals "anti-Conservative",[38] and MP David Wilshire (now retired), whose constituency included Heathrow, and who favoured construction of a third runway, contrary to the official Conservative Party position.[39] The proposals also drew opposition from the aviation industry.[40] Cameron commended the report, pledging to include many of its recommendations in the party's manifesto.[37]

Election to Parliament[edit]

Goldsmith at a rally near Kew Gardens in June 2008.

In 2010, Goldsmith was the Conservative parliamentary candidate for the constituency of Richmond Park. His place on the roster of parliamentary candidates was announced around the time of the Conservative party's 2005 annual conference, where he stated he saw no contradiction between an interest in environmental issues and being a Conservative.[41] Around the same time, he commented in an interview on his backing of the Conservative party, arguing the Labour Party has become a party shaped by big business and big lobby groups interests[1] and is too authoritarian and centrist.[10] In May 2006, he was one of the prospective parliamentary candidates featured on David Cameron's 'A-List'.[10]

His family has a long history in politics. Goldsmith's grandfathers were both Conservative Members of Parliament: Frank Goldsmith was a Conservative MP while Viscount Castlereagh (later the 8th Lord Londonderry), his mother's father, was Unionist MP for County Down in the British House of Commons. His maternal great-grandfather, the 7th Lord Londonderry, was a well-known Ulster Unionist politician. Another maternal ancestor is Viscount Castlereagh, who was Chief Secretary for Ireland and, later, British Foreign Secretary. Before 2005, Goldsmith supported and was involved in the campaigns of Michael Gove MP and Joanne Cash.[25]

On 16 March 2007, Goldsmith won an open primary, conducted by the Richmond Park Conservative Association,[25] to become the Conservative challenger for incumbent Susan Kramer's parliamentary seat. He had originally planned to stand in East Hampshire, a safe Conservative seat, but he changed his mind. "I just didn't know East Hampshire... I would have had to get worked up about issues that I didn't care about. The whole thing was so artificial. I wrote to them telling them I couldn't do it", he later explained.[42]

In 2008, Goldsmith was involved in a breach of electoral rules when he made a donation of £7,000 to his party while not on the electoral register. Responding to the issue, Goldsmith explained, "[E]verything has been declared on time and accurately; however, for a few weeks last year I was not on the electoral roll, as I had removed myself from Kensington and Chelsea and was in the process of signing up in Richmond. Whatever was donated in that time may have to be repaid, but there is no suggestion that it was anything other than an oversight."[43]

In late 2009, it was published in the press that Goldsmith had non-domiciled status and that the London resident, as a discretionary beneficiary, has use of British properties through the trust set up by his late father.[44] Goldsmith responded, in a statement about the suggestions of tax avoidance, that he has "always chosen to be tax resident in the UK" and virtually all his income comes to the UK, where he has always paid full tax on it, adding that he is subject to capital gains tax on the two properties owned by the trust. A recipient of non-dom status as a result of his late father's international status, Goldsmith added that he had already instructed his accountants to relinquish it of his own volition by early 2009, and before being approached by any newspapers.[45][46]

Election expense allegations[edit]

Goldsmith speaking in 2013

Channel 4 News raised questions over Goldsmith's declared expenses at the 2010 election, arguing "our findings do suggest that Zac Goldsmith has questions to answer about whether his spending has complied with both the letter and the spirit of the law." Goldsmith denied any wrongdoing and accused Channel 4 News of sleazy unethical journalism.[6][47][48] The Bureau of Investigative Journalism complained to the Electoral Commission over Goldsmith's expenses,[49] who ruled that Goldsmith had not intentionally broken any rules.[50][51]

On 15 July 2010, Goldsmith appeared on Channel 4 News to answer questions over his election expenses.[52][unreliable source?] Goldsmith spent the first six minutes arguing about the details of when and how he had been asked to appear. Jon Snow said Goldsmith gave a "travesty of the truth"[53] on that matter and that he was "prevaricating" and running them out of time. The interview was live. Goldsmith accused Snow of being a "charlatan". Snow suggested Goldsmith take the matter to OFCOM. Goldsmith did so[54] but his complaint was rejected.[55]

Snow had two questions about the expenses. The first was about signs. "You expended £2,800 on 600 signs but £262 is what you said you spent when you told the Electoral Commission on your return". The response was "The formula we used is exactly the same formula ... as used by MPs and candidates around the country. Every decision we took was approved by electoral experts at Conservative Central Office". Snow said they were investigating 30 MPs and in terms of scale, Goldsmith's expenses far outstripped the others. The claim was reduced because the signs had been allocated to the local election budget. It was debated whether signs that said "Vote Zac Goldsmith" and "Vote Conservative" could be charged to the election budget for a local election candidate when that other candidate was not mentioned on the sign. The response was that it had been "checked" and that was "standard practice" across the country.[citation needed]

The second question was about jackets with "I back Zac" stickers on the back. "They cost £2,168 but you only said you paid (spent) £170". The response was that the stickers cost £170 and the jackets had not been customised for the Zac Goldsmith campaign. "They are off the shelf. Look at them", Goldsmith responded further, adding that they were generic jackets and will be used in other election campaigns.[citation needed]

Channel 4 News presented their case online,[6] including scans of the spending documents.[56] Goldsmith has posted a response on his blog.[57] The interview itself became a news item.[58]

On 21 July 2010, the Electoral Commission announced that, following their initial 5-day assessment, they have decided to upgrade the investigation to the status of "case under review"[59] and that they will make enquiries "in order to establish the facts of the matter".[60] The Commission reported in December 2010: they decided not to refer the case for criminal investigation and that there was no intentional rule-breaking but they did rule that the cost-sharing between general election and local elections contests was "not consistent with the Commission's guidance or good practice", that the submission was "unclear in places" and the Goldsmith's campaign may have overspent by £966 in the short campaign.[50][51]

Political positions[edit]

An enthusiastic advocate of direct democracy, such as Switzerland's model of using referendums, Goldsmith believes it would help combat feelings of disenfranchisement among people and increase accountability.[61] Among his key interests is education. In an interview with fair trade fashion designers People Tree, he said "I've put a big emphasis on schools. One campaign is to ensure every school [is] fitted with a proper kitchen that can double up as a classroom. Children need to know where their food comes from and how to cook it. We're also trying to help every school source its food sustainably and locally."[62]

Local issues[edit]

On a local level Goldsmith has been involved in campaigns within his constituency of Richmond Park, in matters such as schools, hospitals and recreation areas.

In 2007, he opposed the opening of a superstore by supermarket chain Sainsbury's in Barnes. He spearheaded a referendum conducted by the Electoral Reform Society to poll local residents on the issue, working closely with a local campaign group. With a turnout of 61.6%, more than 4,000 residents, who made up 85% of the votes cast, came forward to oppose the construction of the store at White Hart Lane. Sainsbury's ultimately opened the branch with a revised planning application.[63][64]

The government department with ultimate responsibility for the Royal Parks, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), is looking to recover its expenditure on a programme of remedial works on the public car parks in Richmond Park through the introduction of parking fees for visitors. Goldsmith organised a "mass rally" in the Royal Park on 30 January 2010 in conjunction with other local Conservatives to protest about the proposed charging.[65] More than 1,000 people turned up.[66]

On 10 June 2012, Goldsmith told the BBC's Sunday Politics programme that he will not stand as a Conservative at the next election if the party supports a third runway at Heathrow airport.[67]

Child abuse inquiry[edit]

Goldsmith co-ordinated a cross-party group of MPs to call for a Hillsborough-style inquiry into child sex abuse.[68] He co-wrote a letter to home secretary Theresa May demanding a full independent inquiry with six other MPs: Tim Loughton, Tom Watson, Simon Danczuk, John Hemming, Tessa Munt and Caroline Lucas. Prime minister David Cameron initially rejected the call but was subsequently forced to concede, after 145 further MPs added their names to Goldsmith et al.'s letter.[69]

Use of super-injunctions[edit]

On 23 December 2008, the political blogger Paul Staines (aka "Guido Fawkes") wrote that he had been served with a super-injunction prohibiting any mention of both itself and recent hacking into the e-mail accounts of Goldsmith, Goldsmith's then wife, and his sister, Jemima. The existence of the injunction was also revealed by Wikileaks in a press release dated 24 December 2008.

Fundraising and awards[edit]

Sir Stirling Moss, Goldsmith and HRH Prince Charles at the launch of the annual Revolve Eco-Rally on 3 June 2007.

Goldsmith has been a member of the advisory board of the JMG Foundation, which disburses grants globally to a range of environmental advocacy groups using the financial legacy left by James Goldsmith.[70] He is also on the National Gardens Scheme's Council of Trustees as one of four Ambassadors.[71] He is a Patron of the Mihai Eminescu Trust, which conserves and maintains communities in Transylvania and the Maramureş,[72] and the Fortune Forum, a philanthropic organisation.[73]

In November 2002, Goldsmith helped establish FARM, a campaigning organisation for British farmers.[74] Goldsmith also funded the Organic Targets Bill Campaign to promote organic farming in 1999.[75] He is a longstanding donor to the Soil Association. In 2007, he was a participant at the Soil Association Annual Conference, during which he competed in an organic fashion show on 25 January[76] and debated on a Question Time panel on 27 January.[77]

In 2003, Goldsmith was awarded the Beacon Prize for Young Philanthropist of the Year for his contribution to environmental awareness and protection.[75] The following year, he received the Mikhail Gorbachev-founded Green Cross International's Global Green Award for International Environmental Leadership.[78]

Family and personal life[edit]

Goldsmith is an enthusiast of poker.[9] In 2000, he stated that he wore recycled Savile Row suits which had belonged to his late father.[12] Sheherazade and Zac Goldsmith were featured in Vanity Fair's 67th Annual International Best-Dressed List among Best-Dressed Couples.[79]

Goldsmith was married for ten years to Sheherazade Ventura-Bentley, with whom he has two daughters, Uma Romaine and Thyra, and a son, James.[80] The couple wed on 5 June 1999, in a ceremony at St Simon Zelotes church in Knightsbridge, and a reception at The Ritz Hotel.[81] The Goldsmiths separated in April 2009[82] and received a decree nisi on 10 May 2010, following his admission of adultery.[82][83][84]

On 14 March 2013, Goldsmith married banking heiress Alice Miranda Rothschild at the London Wetland Centre.[85][86] Alice's sister Kate, was married until 2012 to Goldsmith's brother Ben.[87][88] Alice's parents were Anita Patience (Guinness), of the Guinness Brewery family, and businessman Amschel Rothschild. The couple has a daughter, Dolly, born in August 2013.[89]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Susan Kramer
Member of Parliament for Richmond Park
2010–present
Incumbent