Zac Goldsmith

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Zac Goldsmith
Zac Goldsmith MP at 'A New Conversation with the Centre-Right about Climate Change'.jpg
Member of Parliament
for Richmond Park
In office
6 May 2010 – 25 October 2016
Preceded by Susan Kramer
Succeeded by Sarah Olney
Personal details
Born Frank Zacharias Robin Goldsmith
(1975-01-20) 20 January 1975 (age 42)
Westminster, London, UK
Political party Independant (Conservative until 2016)
Spouse(s) Sheherazade Ventura-Bentley (m. 1999; div. 2010)
Alice Rothschild (m. 2013)
Children 4
Residence Barnes, London
Occupation Journalist, Politician

Frank Zacharias Robin "Zac" Goldsmith (born 20 January 1975) is a British politician and journalist who, between the 2010 general election and October 2016, represented Richmond Park as its Member of Parliament (MP). He was the Conservative candidate in the 2016 London mayoral election, which he lost to Sadiq Khan.[1]

Born in London, the son of billionaire businessman and financier Sir James Goldsmith, he was educated at Eton College and the Cambridge Centre for Sixth-form Studies. In 1998, his uncle Edward Goldsmith made him editor of The Ecologist, a position he retained until 2007.[2] Goldsmith was appointed Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Quality of Life Policy Group in 2005, co-authoring its report published in 2007.[3]

Goldsmith was placed on the Conservative "A-List" of potential candidates in 2006,[4][5] and then in March 2007, he was selected through an open primary to contest the constituency of Richmond Park against the incumbent Liberal Democrat MP, Susan Kramer.[6] At the 2010 general election, he was elected to Parliament winning the seat with a majority of 4,091.[7]

At the 2015 general election, Goldsmith was returned to the Commons with a majority of 23,015, an increase of almost 19,000 since 2010, against his nearest opponent, a Liberal Democrat.[8]

He announced his resignation as a Member of Parliament following the Government's October 2016 decision to approve a third runway at Heathrow Airport. His resignation triggered a by-election in the Richmond Park constituency in which Goldsmith stood as an independent candidate.[9] He was defeated by Sarah Olney of the Liberal Democrats.[10]

Early life[edit]

Born at Westminster Hospital in London, Goldsmith is the middle child of Sir James Goldsmith, a member of the Goldsmith family of German Jewish and French descent, and his third wife, the Anglo-Irish aristocrat, Lady Annabel Vane-Tempest-Stewart. Goldsmith was brought up at Ormeley Lodge in Ham with his siblings, Jemima and Ben.[11] He has five paternal half-siblings,[12] and is also half-brother to Robin and India Jane Birley, his mother's children from her first marriage.[13]

As a child, Goldsmith was an avid reader of naturalist Gerald Durrell's works[14] and developed a committed passion for David Attenborough's wildlife programmes.[15] He later recalled, "He was my hero, and it was his work that made me fall in love with the natural world".[16] His ecological interests were nurtured further when his father gave him a copy of Helena Norberg-Hodge's book Ancient Futures, with a note saying: "This will change your life".[17]


Goldsmith was educated at four independent schools: King's House School in Richmond and The Mall School in Twickenham, followed by Hawtreys School, near Great Bedwyn in Wiltshire,[18] and Eton College in Berkshire;[14] He was expelled from Eton after drugs were found in his room [19][20] and then achieved four A-Levels at Cambridge Centre for Sixth-Form Studies.[17][21]


Goldsmith travelled throughout the world with the International Honours Programme (courtesy of his uncle Edward Goldsmith),[22] including to Thailand, New Zealand, Mexico, Hungary and Italy. Goldsmith lived in California for two years, working at first for the think tank Redefining Progress[23] from 1995 to 1996, and later as a researcher for Norberg-Hodge's International Society for Ecology and Culture (ISEC) during 1996–98. While working with ISEC, Goldsmith travelled to India, spending a short time on an ashram in Rajasthan and later lived in Ladakh for six months, studying traditional cultures and helping run a tourist education programme.[24][25]

Writing and journalism[edit]

In 1997, Goldsmith was appointed Reviews Editor of The Ecologist by his uncle Edward Goldsmith, the magazine's founding editor, owner and publisher.[26][27][28] In 1998, he became Editor-in-Chief and Director of The Ecologist but did not draw a salary.[17] He relaunched The Ecologist on 28 March 2000 in a new format, transforming its academic journal-style into a current affairs-magazine format, thereby broadening its appeal and trebling its circulation.[17][29] In January 2006, when assuming a post as the reviewer of Conservative environmental policies for David Cameron, who had recently become party leader, it was announced that Goldsmith was to step down as editor.[30]

Goldsmith has spoken and written about environmental causes in Britain and has twice been invited to debate at the Oxford Union, where he delivered keynote addresses.[31][32] He writes for UK newspapers including the Daily Mail,[33] London Evening Standard,[34] Observer[35] and The Telegraph.[36][37] He is also a contributor to magazines such as the New Statesman[38] and Quintessentially Magazine.[39]

As a contributing author of the book We Are One: A Celebration of Tribal Peoples, published in late 2009,[40] which examines the culture of peoples around the world, he explores global diversities and threats facing humankind. Among the other contributors are western writers, such as Laurens van der Post, Noam Chomsky, Claude Lévi-Strauss and indigenous persons, 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 writes about how his travel around 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 tribal people and, in reverence to it, urges people in the modern world to question what "progress" can really mean.[41]

Non-domiciled status[edit]

Prior to becoming an MP, Goldsmith had non-domiciled status;[42] in February 2016, The Evening Standard quoted Goldsmith saying that non-domiciled status let individuals "make lifestyle choices to avoid paying tax" and insisting "I've never been accused of not paying tax."[43] In 2009, however, Chris Huhne, Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, asserted that Goldsmith was likely to have avoided paying £580,000 per year for each year in the previous decade as a result of his non-dom status.[44]

Political career[edit]

Quality of Life Policy group[edit]

In December 2005, David Cameron approved Goldsmith's appointment as Deputy Chairman, under former Environment Secretary John Gummer of the Quality of Life Policy Group.[15] The group was tasked with the responsibility of examining quality of life matters such as carbon emissions and climate change, clean air and transport with a view to formulating Conservative policy.[45] The group's 600-page report, jointly authored by Goldsmith and Gummer, was presented at the Royal Institute of British Architects on 13 September 2007.[46]

The report's[47] 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 home; and in addition it proposed a moratorium on airport expansions.[48]

The report drew criticism from the Labour Party and from the UKIP MEP Roger Helmer, who termed the proposals "anti-Conservative",[49] as well as from David Wilshire, formerly Conservative MP for Spelthorne near Heathrow, who contrary to the Conservative leadership stance was in favour of a third runway.[50] The report's proposals also attracted comment from the aviation industry.[51] Cameron commended the report, pledging that many of its recommendations should be included in the Conservative manifesto.[48]

Parliamentary career[edit]

Goldsmith campaigning at a green rally outside Kew Gardens Tube Station at Kew, London in June 2008.

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 his interest in environmental issues and being a Conservative.[52] Around the same time, he commented in an interview on his backing of the Conservative Party, arguing the Labour Party had evolved into being shaped by big business and big lobby groups interests[2] and had become too authoritarian and centrist.[15] In May 2006, he was one of the prospective parliamentary candidates featuring on the Conservative 'A-List'.[15]

His family has a long history in politics. Goldsmith's grandfathers were both Conservative Members of Parliament: his paternal grandfather, Frank Goldsmith was a Conservative MP, while his mother's father represented County Down as Viscount Castlereagh (later the 8th Marquess of Londonderry), when a Unionist MP in the British House of Commons. His maternal great-grandfather, the 7th Lord Londonderry, was a Ulster Unionist politician. Another maternal ancestor was Viscount Castlereagh, Chief Secretary for Ireland and British Foreign Secretary. Before 2005, Goldsmith supported and helped with the campaigns of Michael Gove MP and Joanne Cash.[32]

On 16 March 2007, Goldsmith won an open primary, conducted by the Richmond Park Conservative Association.[32] 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.[53]

In 2008 Goldsmith was asked to comment about donations of £7,000 to his Party while not on the electoral register. Commenting on the issue, Goldsmith explained: "everything has been declared on time and accurately; however, for a few weeks last year I was not on the Electoral Roll, my name having been removed from Kensington and Chelsea's voter list, given that I was in the process of signing up for Richmond. Whatever was donated in that time may have to be repaid, but there is no suggestion that anything other was improprietous".[54]

In late 2009, the press asserted that Goldsmith had non-domiciled status and that as a London resident, albeit a discretionary beneficiary, he has use of British properties through a trust set up by his late father.[55] Goldsmith responded, in a statement about the suggestion of tax avoidance, that he has "always chosen to be tax resident in the UK" and virtually all his income was paid to into British banks. 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.[56][57]

Goldsmith defeated the Liberal Democrat MP Susan Kramer (now Baroness Kramer) in Richmond Park at the 2010 general election. At the next general election, in May 2015, he increased his majority from 4,091 to 23,015 votes. He achieved an increase of 8.5 percent of the share of the vote from the 2010 general election, receiving a total of 58.2 percent of all votes cast by his constituents. This was the biggest increase in majority of any MP at the 2015 general election.[58]

In December 2016, Goldsmith lost a by-election in Richmond that he had initiated himself by the act of resigning his seat. He stood as an independent instead of as a Conservative but was endorsed by UKIP who did not stand a candidate,[59] and lost to Liberal Democrat Sarah Olney, who overturned his majority of 23,000.[60][61]

Electoral spending[edit]

Goldsmith is known to be one of the wealthiest MPs in Parliament, given that the bequest from his father, Sir James Goldsmith, who died shortly after the 1997 general election with a £1.2bn fortune, is subject to much scrutiny. Some tax experts have speculated Goldsmith's income could amount to as much as £5m per year from the trust left to him alone.[62]

Zac Goldsmith was cleared of intentional wrongdoing over election spending after Channel 4 highlighted apparent discrepancies in his expenses claims. Goldsmith insisted he had followed the same procedures as other candidates and countered by stating that Channel 4 engaged in sleazy unethical journalism.[63][64] The Bureau of Investigative Journalism complained to the Electoral Commission over the report about Goldsmith's expenses,[65] who ruled that Goldsmith had not intentionally broken any rules.[66][67]

Goldsmith clashed with presenter Jon Snow, who accused him of "prevaricating" in a confrontational live interview on Channel 4 News.[68][69][70] Both parties criticised each other in the aftermath. Snow suggested Goldsmith take the matter to OFCOM, which rejected Zac Goldsmith's complaint about Snow and Channel 4 News' conduct.[69][71]

Channel 4 questioned whether Goldsmith had under-reported the sums spent on signs, stickers and jackets used in his campaign, and claimed his campaign spending was much higher than other MPs they investigated. Goldsmith argued that this was because the expenditure was being spread across multiple campaigns "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". 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. Goldsmith response was that it had been "checked" and that was "standard practice" across the country. 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". Goldsmith said the stickers cost £170 and the jackets were "off the shelf" and would be reused for other campaigns.[72]

Channel 4 News presented their case online including scans of the spending documents.[73] Goldsmith has posted a response on his blog.[74] 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"[75] and that they will make enquiries "in order to establish the facts of the matter".[76] The Commission reported in December 2010, deciding that in "the absence of any evidence of intentional circumvention of the rules, we do not consider that a referral to the police is appropriate."[77] but they did observe 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 Goldsmith's campaign may have overspent by £966 in the short campaign.[66][67]

London mayoral campaign[edit]

On 9 June 2015, Goldsmith announced his interest in running for the mayoralty of London after encouragement both from members of his own party and others (notably the former Green Party Candidate Jenny Jones, Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb).[78][79] Goldsmith sought his Richmond Park constituents' consent by a postal ballot (at his own expense) before formally declaring.[80] Richmond Park voters backed Goldsmith's candidature for the 2016 mayoral election by a ratio of 4:1 following which,[81] on 23 June 2015, he formally put his name forward[82] and, on 2 October, Goldsmith was selected as the Conservative candidate for the London mayoral election, 2016.[83]

Goldsmith's campaign was criticised by the Labour Party for using 'dog-whistle politics' and racist or Islamaphobic campaigning; In April 2016 Yvette Cooper wrote "What started as a subtle dog-whistle is becoming a full blown racist scream";[84] Conservative politician Baroness Warsi also criticised Goldsmith for using an image of the bus destroyed in the 7/7 terrorist attacks to illustrate an article he wrote.[85] Goldsmith was also accused of 'racial profiling' voters in the London mayoral campaign.[86][87][88] Goldsmith strongly denied claims that his campaign had been racist and accused his rival Sadiq Khan of 'playing the race card'.[89]

Goldsmith went on to lose the election to Sadiq Khan who achieved 57% of the vote to Goldsmith's 43%, and polled a record number of votes after second round votes were counted.

Sir Stirling Moss, Goldsmith, HRH Prince Charles and event founder Steven Glaser at the launch of the annual Revolve Eco-Rally on U.N. World Environment Day, 3 June 2007.

Political positions[edit]

The Guardian described Goldsmith as "a bit of a liberal and a bit of a libertarian" on social issues. Goldsmith has also gained a reputation for environmentalism due to his opposition to his government's plans to expand Heathrow airport.[90]

Direct democracy[edit]

Goldsmith is an enthusiastic advocate of direct democracy, such as Switzerland's model of using referendums. Goldsmith believes that direct democracy would help combat feelings of disenfranchisement among people and increase accountability.[91]


Among his key interests is education; in an interview with Fairtrade 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".[92]

European Union[edit]

Goldsmith is a long-standing Eurosceptic. In the aftermath of the agreement on British membership achieved by the Prime Minister, David Cameron, Goldsmith announced his support for leaving the European Union.[93]

Local issues[edit]

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 after revising its planning application.[94][95]

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 rally attended by over 1,000 people,[96] in the Royal Park on 30 January 2010 in conjunction with other local Conservatives to protest about the proposed charging.[97]

On 10 June 2012, Goldsmith told the BBC's Sunday Politics programme that he would not stand as a Conservative at the next election if the party supported a third runway at Heathrow airport.[98]

Child abuse inquiry group[edit]

Goldsmith co-ordinated a cross-party group of MPs to call for a Hillsborough-style inquiry into child sex abuse.[99] 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. The 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.[100]

Fundraising and awards[edit]

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 Sir James Goldsmith.[101] He is also on the National Gardens Scheme's Council of Trustees as one of four Ambassadors.[102] He is a Patron of the Mihai Eminescu Trust which conserves and maintains communities in Transylvania and the Maramureş,[103] and the philanthropic organization, Fortune Forum (together with Jimmy Wales).[104]

Goldsmith funded the Organic Targets Bill Campaign to promote organic farming in 1999.[105] 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[106] and afterwards debating on a Question Time panel on 27 January.[107]

In 2003, Goldsmith was awarded the Beacon Prize as Young Philanthropist of the Year for his contribution to environmental awareness and protection.[105] The following year, he received the Mikhail Gorbachev-founded Green Cross International's Global Green Award for International Environmental Leadership.[108]

In 2011, Goldsmith was joint winner of the inaugural BusinessGreen Politician of the Year Award with Tim Yeo MP.[109]

In 2014, Goldsmith was also awarded by The Patchwork Foundation for being The Best Conservative Newcomer MP of the Year.[110]

Family and personal life[edit]

St Simon Zelotes Church, London

After his father's death in 1997, Zac Goldsmith is believed to have inherited between £200 and £300 million out of the reported £1.2 billion estate.[111] Goldsmith was the second richest member of the House of Commons.[112]

Goldsmith was married for ten years to Sheherazade Ventura-Bentley with whom he has three children: two daughters, Uma Romaine and Thyra, and a son, James.[113] The couple married on 5 June 1999. The Goldsmith couple separated in April 2009, and received a decree nisi on 10 May 2010. Sheherazade and Zac Goldsmith were featured in Vanity Fair's 67th Annual International Best-Dressed List among "Best-Dressed Couples".[114] Goldsmith said, in 2000, that he wore Savile Row suits which had belonged to his late father.[17]

On 14 March 2013, Goldsmith married banking heiress Alice Rothschild at London Wetland Centre in his constituency.[115] Alice is the daughter of Anita Patience (née Guinness) of the Irish aristocratic brewing family by businessman The Hon. Amschel Rothschild.[116][117] They have a daughter, Dolly Goldsmith, born in July 2013.[118] Alice's sister, Kate Rothschild and his brother Ben Goldsmith had been married until 2012.[119][120]

Goldsmith, a backgammon and poker player, also pursues other sporting interests including cricket.[14] He and his family live in Barnes.


See also[edit]


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External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Susan Kramer
Member of Parliament
for Richmond Park

Succeeded by
Sarah Olney