It seems that Zac Goldsmith’s decade-long dance with government is over. The Old Etonian today handed his notice after four years as a minister, accusing Rishi Sunak of being ‘simply uninterested’ in environmental issues. It (for now) ends a 13-year career in Tory politics which saw him elected MP for Richmond thrice, lose said seat twice and mount an ill-fated mayoral bid only once. Below is Steerpike’s guide to some of the worst episodes of Zac Goldsmith’s political career…
Throughout his on-off decade in the House of Commons, Goldsmith continued to get tangled up in spending rules. Following his first campaign in 2010, the Electoral Commission expressed concerns about the way in which the millionaire MP’s team filled out spending returns for his general election bid. And after his last, in July 2020, he was fined nearly £9,000 by the Standards Commissioner after using Parliamentary resources for party political campaigning. More than 13,0000 campaign letters were sent with prepaid House of Commons second class envelopes.
The great irony of Boris Johnson’s downfall as an MP was that the system by which a Commons suspension can lead to a by-election happened in part thanks to the campaigning efforts of… Zac Goldsmith. As a fresh-faced Richmond MP in 2010, Goldsmith introduced a series of private members to back the right of voters to ‘recall’ their MPs. The Coalition government in response opted for a compromise measure whereby the Privileges Committee would decide on the length of an MPs’ suspension and decide if voters ought to be offered the chance to hold a by-election. Goldsmith opposed it but he still, rightly or wrongly, was credited with introducing ‘recall.’
And when Goldsmith stood down on the issue of Heathrow expansion in 2016 to fight his own by-election, he, er, lost…
The mayoral bid
Running for London mayoral wasn’t always a kamikaze mission.