Tag Archives: zac-goldsmith

Zac Goldsmith, Peter Watt and the anti-politics age

On the face of it, Zac Goldsmith and Peter Watt are two very different people. One thing they have common however is that they are high stakes rollers in the game of politics who claim to not be politicians.

Writing in today’s New Statesman, Peter Watt bemoans the fact that:

Working in front-line politics is like working in a goldfish bowl: everything you do is a potential story, good or bad. Elected politicians rightly have their say, argue their corner and defend themselves. It’s different for the staff of a political party. As a political staffer, you know there’s a risk that one day you could, however inadvertently, become a bad story yourself.

You know, too, that if and when that happens the “machine” will protect you as best it can. It is an unwritten but understood insurance policy andgoes to the heart of how and why political staff will go the extra mile.

I think it would be hard to deny that Labour did not treat Watt at all well and that Gordon Brown ratted him out at the first opportunity. So much for Gordon Brown. But it isn’t quite a simple as Watt would have us believe. After all, he was not strictly speaking a member of staff but an elected official. We was not there simply to do his political masters’ bidding; he had a political mandate of his own (from Labour’s National Executive Committee).

I think that failure of insight on his part explains a lot. If his agenda from day one as general secretary was merely to carry out instructions, it is no surprise that he failed to get Gordon Brown to commit to an October 2007 general election. If he failed to appreciate the political nature of his role and the importance of watching his own back, it is no surprise he was caught unawares by the Abrahams donor scandal.

Meanwhile on the other side of the political spectrum, we have Zac Goldsmith in the Evening Standard today airily announcing that:

“I hate politics. I hate the game of politics. I don’t want to get involved in this childish Punch and Judy. I have seen enough of politicians to know that it is not a class of people I particularly want to spend my time with.

“I don’t like career politicians. I don’t like what they stand for. I look at a politician who votes 100 per cent with his party and think: why did you do that? It’s all about career.”

There are several problems with these claims. First of all, Zac Goldsmith is by any rational definition a career politician. He started as editor of the Ecologist magazine back in 1998. I got the magazine for a few issues, discarding it because it had a distinct weakness for tinfoil hat theories regarding things like “electrosmog.” The other thing that used to wind me up were Goldsmith’s often polemic – and highly political – editorials, especially the ones where he bafflingly claimed that the EU was actually bad to the UK’s environmental policies (we would almost certainly be less green without the EU to prod us and a European Economic Community to enable us). The sort of pointed criticism he has received in recent months is exactly the sort of thing he has written himself, only on a different subject. And even if you ignore his former role as an environmental commentator, the simple fact is that he has been a party politician for four years now.

The only sense in which Goldsmith can be said to not be a career politician is that, as a dilletante, it is arguable that he does not have a career at all. His aversion appears to be less towards politicians per se and more towards those who lack the sort of financial independence he does. In short, he is waging class warfare here, pure and simple. For “career politician” read “oik”.

Either way, this whole “politician, moi?” stuff annoys me tremendously. I hated it just as much when Brian Paddick tried it on during the London mayoral election in 2008 with his “a policeman not a politician” posters et al. Paddick had a much better claim to not being a politician than either Goldsmith or Watt but his biggest problem lay in the fact that in his shiny suit he looked more like the consummate politician than any of his rivals (be it “regular bloke” Ken Livingstone, “toff” Boris Johnson or “hippy” Sian Berry). There’s a lesson to be learned there: if you indulge too much in this populist anti-politics mood then the ultimate victors are not “ordinary” people but consummate politicians who have enough cunning to hide it from view. The 2008 mayoral election was a great taster for what we might see in 2010: an election dominated by personalities, haircuts, tactics and name calling where the issues take a back seat. Neither Peter Watt’s book or Zac Goldsmith’s above-it-all act will exactly help in this respect.

The Conservative Party: a better class of bonkers

It’s the 30th, so it must be the Tory conference in Blackpool and thankfully the final leg of the annual Party Conference Odyssey. Thus far, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the relative niceness of our B&B (believe me, I’ve been in much worse in this town) and am slowly getting my lay of the land with regards to the culture. Thus far, it all seems to boil down to hats. You don’t see Lib Dems or Labour wearing fedoras or something that wouldn’t look out of place at Ladies Day at Ascot. Having spent much of this afternoon handing out free magazines, I can also attest that I’ve been dead-eyed by more delegates than either of the other two conferences put together. This is also the first time I’ve come across delegates informing me that they don’t want to be a citizen, “I want to be a subject of the crown!” Fair enough.

Whereas last week I could wander about in relative anonymity, here my blogging and regular appearances on 18 Doughty Street get me recognised everywhere. It was nice to finally meet Peter Cuthbertson last night after all these years, although being mid-fever and encountering a particularly tricky madras meant that I wasn’t exactly at my best. I also understand that Croydonian is about to out me on the basis that I’m wearing a Conservative lanyard.

One thing that is particularly distinctive at Tory conference is the rich seam of loons. That isn’t to say the other parties don’t have them as well; we sure do. But the Tories take this one step further. The Free Society and Forest are having a reception stuffed full of delegates behind me as I type in which they are giving out a CD containing “songs for swinging smokers” – even DELGA has struggled to make free love a mainstream issue in the way that seems to be taken for granted here (the reception certainly isn’t about smoking as I’ve just seen a couple of people get ejected for the temerity of lighting up).

And then there is the UK Column (incorporating the Plymouth and Devonport Column), a newspaper which has been handed out all day today. For more information about where they are coming from, see the accompanying website eutruth.org.uk and this YouTube video with their editor David Noakes. I hasten to add that this newspaper is in no way affiliated with the Conservative Party, but it was clearly decided that the Lib Dem and Labour conferences would be much less fertile ground.

This paper is fantastic, bonkers stuff on the extreme end of the Euro-nihilist fringe. Pretty much everyone is listed as EU collaborators involved in a grand conspiracy to foist an EU Police State on the British people, including Cameron, John Redwood, Francis “pornographer” Maude (I bet he’s a smokin’ swinger!), UKIP and Thames Valley Police. As for the mainstream parties:

“The ruling EU marxist cliques in the Labour, Lib-Dem and Conservative parties are heavily into sexual practices which most of us would not regard as normal, with a significant amount of paedophilia amongst them, both nationally and locally.”

The Grand Conspiracy has apparently been orchestrated behind the scenes by the Bilderburg Group, German Intellegence, Freemasons, the Legal Profession and the sinister sounding Common Purpose. They have surprisingly accurate seeming percentages for how much each organisation is dominated by The Conspiracy. We therefore are to understand, for example that the Lib Dems and Labour are 60% dominated (some hope for us then) while the Tories are overwhelmed by a 75% dominance of conspirators. Surprisingly, 4% of the Bilderberg Group, we are to understand, are not in on the conspiracy. How Jewish Bankers, the Catholic Church and Zeta Reticulans fit in in all this is sadly left unexplained.

One thing that might confuse the casual reader of this august organ is that despite being called the UK Column, they have what appears to be a flag of St George as part of their logo. Surely that is English imperialism of the worst kind? Apparently not.

It is explained that it is in fact the flag of Arviragus (Arthur?), a Cornish Prince who was friends with Joseph of Arimathea and who kicked the Roman’s arses the last time those dirty continentals invaded. So it isn’t English imperialism at all; it’s Cornish imperialism. So that’s all right then.

And how is this paper funded in the face of such a grand conspiracy? Through local advertising. All well and good, but my humble suggestion to the customers of BDL Denture Clinics, based in Plymouth and Bodmin, is to look very carefully into their credentials. Just a suggestion.

Oh, and there’s a rumour going round that Zac Goldsmith is about to defect to the Lib Dems. I don’t personally believe it for a minute, but then again I don’t really understand what he’s doing here either. And it doesn’t look as if he’s going to be having a very good week.

Cameron ditches green policies

(hat tip: Liberal Review)

The Tory confusion about the environment deepens. The problem is, they now love the environment but hate one of the best tools we have for protecting it: the EU. Out of desperation, they have thrown themselves into the arms of a party that is deeply opposed to climate change policies:

In an interview with the Czech newspaper Hospodarske noviny on February 12, Mr Klaus said: “Global warming is a false myth and every serious person and scientist says so.”

He added: “Environmentalism as a metaphysical ideology and as a worldview has absolutely nothing to do with natural sciences or with the climate.” Scientists who said global warming was happening were “politicised”, he said.

Meanwhile of course, the environmentalists they have embraced say similarly batty things about the EU. Take tin foil hat salesman Zac Goldsmith, who mixes environmentalism, cigar smoking and gambling with wanting to smash the whole thing up into little pieces and leave the rest of the world entirely dependent on the US for leadership.

All in all, it looks as if Cameron’s support for green issues is only limited to the UK’s own borders. If only climate change respected borders in the same way.