Zac Goldsmith’s attempt to appeal to ethnic minority voters in London has backfired for the Tory mayoral candidate. Interviewed while attending the Asian Awards, in an apparent attempt to woo Indian voters, Goldsmith claimed to be a “big Bollywood fan”, and said “anything Bollywood, I’ll lap it up.”
Clearly, he hoped that London’s Indian community would lap him up too.
However, when asked about his favourite Bollywood film or actor, he was unable to name either, resulting in a round of stuttering and more insistence that he just really, really loves Bollywood.
Zac is clearly not a professional liar of the same calibre as Osborne, Cameron or Johnson – and that is meant as a compliment. What is not complementary to either the man or the party he represents is the constant racial stereotyping and ‘dog-whistle‘ politics of his negative campaign against Sadiq Khan.
Had he just dropped the coded references to Indian culture and said that he likes the country, enjoys a curry and like Justin Trudeau will dance to bhangra if he’s had a few, then the interview would have gone much better. It turns out that Goldsmith even lived in India for 6 months and attended an ashram (Hindu religious community).
And yet rather than enlightening him his experiences seem to have cemented a colonialist mentality of ‘divide and rule’, whereby he can stir up fears and tensions for political gain.
His campaign has been characterised by repellant assumptions about how ethnic minorities vote, including the outrageous ‘Hindu jewels’ campaign leaflets which have probably offended more people than they’ll bring in on election day (May 5).
The logic behind this woeful tactic is the fact that his opponent Sadiq Khan is a Muslim of Pakistani heritage and there is a huge amount of ill-feeling between Pakistan and India. This periodically spills over into militant violence such as the 2008 Mumbai Massacre, and in 2001 the two nations were on the brink of nuclear war.
Goldsmith’s campaign is nothing but a transparent attempt to exploit these overseas tensions at home.
The fact that such divisive behaviour risks opening old wounds among London’s ethnic minorities either had not crossed his mind, or simply doesn’t matter to him.
It is a pity, because when Goldsmith first turned up he came across as fairly likable and principled and as former editor and owner of The Ecologist magazine we could at least believe he stood for something.
In fact given his extensive environmental campaigning, philanthropy and contribution of articles to titles such as We Are One: A Celebration of Tribal Peoples, it is hard not to conclude that here was a man who once had some principles but who has been ruthlessly corrupted by the toxic culture of the Conservative party. That and the fact the other Old-Etonians such as Johnson, Cameron and Osborne may be goading him to sink lower and lower.
This video from Owen Jones delves further into the incredibly divisive way that this campaign has progressed:
The latest polls show Sadiq Khan leading Zac Goldsmith by a whopping 20 points. Bookmakers place Goldsmith’s odds of winning the contest as a meagre 20% (Betfair). A huge change from two months ago when the odds were in Goldsmith’s favour.
But he has always thought his odds quite low and became the Tory candidate only under pressure from his peers. In 2013 when asked whether he would stand for London mayor he made the following perceptive statement:
I think people have had enough of white male Etonians, I’m not sure my chances would be very high.
And that about sums up where not only London but the general mood of the country now lies. Even without the race-baiting, the negative campaigning, the gaffes and giving the general impression that his heart is not really in it, Goldsmith’s chances were always poor. You can almost feel the tide turning.
For a long time Londoners, and the country in general, have been sick and tired of being ruled over by people we have nothing in common with. The age of being talked down to by born millionaires, who went to the same private school and know nothing about our everyday struggles, is thankfully drawing to a close.
Even if you’ve never done so before, seriously consider voting or at least turn up to despoil the ballot
5 May, 7am to 10pm is the biggest set of elections, outside the general election, in the UK, including:
- 124 council elections across England
- Scottish Parliament
- The National Assembly of Wales
- The National Assembly of Northern Ireland
- Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs)
- London General Assembly
- Mayorships of Bristol, Liverpool, Salford and London
Find your local polling station here.