Does Zac Goldsmith pass the Conservative litmus test?
by Meera Sonecha
When people see the Conservative Party Membership card in my wallet, they can’t help but wonder. Just as my Debenhams, Nectar and Superdrug cards say something about me, this card, too, reveals a little bit about who I am. For different people, the card will mean different things. To some, it will show that I’m a person concerned with individual liberty and economic freedom. Others will recall the days of Thatcher and think of strikes and the unions’ opposition to privatisation. Some will think badly of me and wrongly think that I don’t care about those less well off. Some will wonder why a brown girl is blue.
I understand why people are confused. Conservatism is an umbrella term that contains a wide range of thoughts, notions and ideas. We have Edmund Burke and his Cultural Conservatism, Thatcher and her Neo-Conservatism, Osborne and his Fiscal Conservatism. And as different as one may seem from the other, there is something in all of those branches that is common: the overarching principles of the preservation of personal wealth and private ownership through self-reliance and individualism. As long as a Conservative candidate can show that they follow that formula, then they pass my Conservative litmus test.
When people ask me why I’m backing Zac this May, the short answer is that he is a Conservative. So am I. Some might think that I may feel obliged to vote for a Conservative candidate no matter the characteristics of that person. The sad thing is that many Conservatives do vote for other Conservatives because of their party, not their personal ideologies. Fortunately for me, Zac cruises through my formula:
- Self-reliance. Conservatism advocates equality of opportunity over equality of outcome. Goldsmith, for example, does not want to hand out homes to Londoners but wants to create affordable housing – that is “starter homes” – up to a maximum of £450,000 for Londoners. He wants to help Londoners help themselves. And this is consistent with this Government’s housing goals in the form of policies such as “Right to buy” and “Help to buy”, as well as the housebuilding commitment this Government, and now Zac, has made. As the great social reformer Frederick Douglass once said: “Our duty is done better by not hindering than by helping our fellow-men; or, in other words, the best way to help them is just to let them help themselves.”
- Individualism. In the last parliament, Zac was a notorious rebel and famously didn’t get a cabinet position because of his strong individual beliefs. “Frankly, I think that to be a good MP, or indeed a good mayor, you have to be independent minded. You have to remind yourself you’re there to represent the people who sent you there, you’re not there to be some kind of ambassador for your party. That on occasion has made me a pain in the backside in parliament but on the big issues it hasn’t.” They Work For You also shows that Zac has consistently voted for individual freedom, be it for euthanasia or same-sex marriage.
- Private ownership. This can be seen by his commitment to home ownership for Londoners. He wants to increase the number of homes built to 50,000 a year by the end of his first mayoral term, if elected. And 30,000 of those homes built on mayoral land would be sold only to Londoners. He wants to carry on Thatcher’s home owning revolution and help every Londoner have his/her castle. This further reinforces his commitment to individualism and freedom from the state.
- Preservation of personal wealth. He has consistently voted against higher corporation tax, against a banker’s bonus tax and against the mansion tax. Zac prefers that people get to keep their money, not give it to the state.
You can see why I’m voting for Zac. Not only is he the best looking out of our hopefuls (and that is important when you will be seeing them on the news an awful lot), but he is a true Conservative. I am confident he will provide the housing revolution that young Londoners have been dreaming of. He will fight the air pollution that is threatening our well-being and he will let his conscience be his guide when it comes to decision making. If we want a London that works for those who live in London, and a habitable environment for future generations to prosper in, then we must make the right choice on 5 May. Vote for a truly Conservative candidate.
Meera Sonecha works as a Parliamentary Researcher at the House of Commons.