Zac Goldsmith has dismissed his Labour rival as not being a “believable” candidate after changing his position on sanctions towards Israel.
The Tory candidate for mayor of London launched one of his strongest attacks on Sadiq Khan during an interview with the Jewish News as he wound his way through north London on a campaign day organised by Conservative Friends of Israel.
Khan, who lobbied for sanctions around the time of Operation Cast Lead in 2009, has insisted in recent weeks that the BDS campaign won’t help achieve peace and urged the world not to “turn its face” against the Jewish state – drawing fire online from anti-Israel activists.
“I don’t think Sadiq Khan is a believable candidate because I sense he speaks with one message to one audience and another to another,” Goldsmith claimed. “He has made some very good statements in the course of this campaign but if you compare them with his position on a wide range of issues before he decided to stand there is a wide gulf between them.”
Put to him that Khan had won praise for his efforts to reach out to the community before and after winning the labour nomination, the Richmond Park MP said: “It’s not for me to evaluate Sadiq Khan campaign. I value consistency and principles in politics. I hope people viewing my record will see I don’t speak with a fork tongue, I do what I say and when I make promises I keep them. People need to know where you stand on an issue.”
Goldsmith stopped off in Stanmore, Edgware and Golders Green, tucking into rugelach and bagels and being presented with a box of matzah on the way, before a rally at the new Work Avenue in Finchley. He later returned to Golders Green to visit Hatzola and meet leaders of the Orthodox community at Bridge Lane shul with local GLA candidate Dan Thomas.
Despite the stories of anti-Semitism plaguing Labour, Goldsmith insisted he wasn’t taking Jewish voters for granted. “You never think you have a community sown up and I think any candidate who thinks they do is taking a huge gamble and also being disrespectful. You can’t take any votes for granted but I’m getting a very good reception in the Jewish community.”
He used the visit to pledge £130,000 for four more neighbourhood police officers for Golders Green and Finchley Church End if elected, pledging to tackle the issues “causing massive anxiety” including the rise in anti-Semitism and the feeling that London is “less safe than it was”.
Goldsmith, who has himself suffered anti-Semitism online because of his name and has outlined plans for an army of volunteers to work with police to tackle online extremism, said: “My concern is it’s not a big jump from aggression online to aggression on the streets. If we’re complacent on the first we’ll end up with physical aggression.”
With Goldsmith claiming Khan has provided cover for extremists by sharing a platform with those with extremist views in the past, former shadow minister Yvette Cooper claimed his campaign was moving from “subtle dog whistles” to “racist screams”.
Hitting back, the Tory hopeful said: “It’s completely and utterly and self-evidently wrong, My campaign has been overwhelmingly positive but it is absurd to pretend it isn’t legitimate to ask questions about Sadiq Khan’s links, of which there are many many many. To try to close down those questions by shouting Islamophobia is not only wrong it’s completely irresponsible.” While he said he’d asked only “a fraction of the questions that need to be asked”, he wanted to use the remainder of the campaign to focus on his plan for the capital.
Goldsmith, who says he remains confident despite trailing in the polls, also spoke of his hopes of leading a trade delegation to Israel should he reach City Hall, praising Boris Johnson for building on the “natural relationship”.