Jewish News speaks to the two frontrunners aiming to take Boris Johnson’s mantle by becoming London’s next Conservative mayor.
The frontrunner in the race for the Tory mayoral nomination has said it’s “hugely important” to encourage trade between the capital and Israel – which he described as “one of the most dynamic and exciting places on earth”, writes Justin Cohen, News editor, Jewish News
Zac Goldsmith’s comments come at a time when economic ties between the countries are at an all-time high and ahead of a trade delegation led by Boris Johnson later this year.
The MP for Richmond Park and North Kingston – whose grandfather Frank was a founder of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem – fulfilled a long-held dream to visit the country a couple of years ago.
He described it as “fizzing with ideas and energy and innovation so the economic ties are very important” and a “bright light” in the region which he hoped to get to know better, regardless of the outcome of the contest.
At home, Goldsmith said police needed to have “an absolutely zero tolerance” approach to hate crime, including anti-Semitism, and expressed strong support for faith schools.
Some politicians have called for education to come under the jurisdiction of City Hall. He told Jewish News: “There’s a basic safety net provided by government to prevent schools heading off in a completely wild direction, but the principle of faith schools is an important one. In my constituency, we have a new Catholic school. There was a campaign by the humanists to prevent it happening – but it went ahead and it’s incredibly successful and popular – I’m pleased to have supported it.“
Goldsmith – who praised the “remarkable” work of the Community Security Trust in recording anti-Semitic incidents – said the concern of some of his Jewish constituents “who had never felt so unsafe in this country” had made him acutely aware of the rise in anti-Semitism during the Gaza conflict.
And he added: “I’ve always been a supporter of Israel – not a completely uncritical supporter – but, as a friend of Israel and as someone with a Jewish name, there was a time during the Gaza conflict when a day didn’t go by without abuse on social media. I love what social media has done to our politics on many levels but it has also provided a platform to monsters.”
He also cautioned against “giving too much oxygen” to fringe figures such as those behind the planned far-right rally in Golders Green this summer.
With London’s population predicted to reach 10 million by 2030, placing ever greater pressures on housing and transport, Goldsmith said the key challenge facing Johnson’s successor at City Hall would be “how to accommodate the growth and keep London as dynamic as it is now”.
With cuts to police budgets and likely to the TfL grant, “we’re going to have to find a way of getting more from less”.
Asked why he was the right man for the capital, he said: “It’s important that whoever is mayor is willing and able to hold the government to account – and call it out when it gets it wrong – and my record over the past five years shows that I’ve always put my constituents and my principles first and I’ve always been willing to hold my own party to account where necessary.”
• Other Conservative candidates for London mayor: Stephen Greenhalgh and Andrew Boff