Those of us who live in the Richmond Park constituency have got used to the offbeat manner of our MP.
Not short of a few bob, courtesy of the trust funds established by his late father and founder of the Referendum Party Sir James (Jimmy) Goldsmith, Zac Goldsmith is certainly not your ordinary Tory MP.
He is not afraid to ruffle feathers and as he himself readily admits, is not likely to see ministerial office any time soon.
Goldsmith’s opposition to any expansion at Heathrow is well known, and he never misses an opportunity to make sure we know it.
During the recent General Election campaign this opposition to expansion was a main plank of Goldsmiths’ pitch to voters in Richmond and North Kingston – and no doubt will be a leading part of his policy platform at any mayoral election – but less was made, for example, of his own very Eurosceptic views, and his idea that extra funding for Kew Gardens should come from the Overseas Aid budget, both of which are positions that many local residents might question.
Are these positions that would play well in a left leaning liberal city like London?
Goldsmith has a strong record when it comes to the environment, but his views on issues like the cost of living in London and how to go about improving and enhancing public transport are currently unclear and unknown.
Goldsmith has a reputation as a politician who is prepared to put his principles over party politics. This disguises his ability to, usually very politely, stick the knife into those who disagree with him.
In the last parliament there were regular attacks on Nick Clegg for what Goldsmith saw as selling out over plans for a Recall Bill, while in reality it was many of his Tory backbench colleagues who thought Goldsmith’s ideas too radical and wouldn’t buy into them.
The MP is also not averse to accusing his opponents of engaging in ‘negative’ campaigning. A recent row in social media over whether or not the MP had told constituents he would not remain as an MP if elected Mayor is a good case in point. He needs to adopt a tougher skin to take on the barbs that will come his way during a Mayoral campaign.
In 2010 it was noticeable that at times Mr Goldsmith appeared not to enjoy the close scrutiny of the media. As press advisor to the then MP Susan Kramer I had calls from the broadcast media calling off interviews because Mr Goldsmith had pulled out.
In the TV and radio interviews he did consent to it was clear that he would rather be somewhere else. And many will remember the rather intemperate interview he gave to Jon Snow of Channel 4 News when questions were asked of his election expenses after that election.
Despite what they might claim I think it fair to say that both Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson enjoy the jousting with the press – I’m not sure Zac Goldsmith would enjoy the same sport.
It would be wrong not to acknowledge that Zac Goldsmith achieved the biggest increase of any MP in his majority at the recent election (although many Lib Dems are licking their lips at the prospect of a by-election), but there have to be questions asked about Goldsmith’s ability to appeal to the electors in the suburbs of Bexley or Redbridge, never mind the inner city areas of Southwark or Islington.
In a year Goldsmith will be unable to build the email lists across London that he uses to regularly reach out to his constituents in Richmond Park.
His appeal to the people of wealthy SW London is apparent; the appeal to the wider Tory vote- plus others – in London that even Boris Johnson could get is open to debate, particularly as those people’s perceptions were based almost entirely from what they knew of Boris via the media.
I don’t hold with the argument that Londoners won’t want to elect another old Etonian to a position of power.
There is also a strong case to be made that having an independently wealthy Mayor who is beholden to no one particular interest group could be good. Witness Michael Bloomberg’s time as Mayor of New City.
But until we see much more of Zac Goldsmith’s policy positions and until he allows himself to undergo serious scrutiny in the media – not just ‘puff’ pieces in the diary columns – then judgement has to be reserved.
For the past 15 years Londoners will have got used to seeing their Mayor regularly travelling around our capital city by Tube and bike. Will 2016 see us getting used to a Mayor turning up in a battered electric Prius car?
Nick Carthew worked with the Liberal Democrat group at the London Assembly for over 10 years and led on policy for the Liberal Democrats in London in the last 3 elections for Mayor and the London Assembly