by Jack Mendel
Zac Goldsmith has been chosen as the Conservative Party’s candidate to run for London mayor in 2016, the Tories have announced.
The Richmond Park MP was backed by 70% of voters in an online primary to be the Tory to fight for the chance to follow Boris Johnson into City Hall.
Mr Goldsmith said the biggest challenge London faced was housing and promised to fight hard to win the mayoralty.
He said: “I am honoured to have been chosen as the Conservative mayoral candidate and I will work tirelessly to repay that debt.
“I have campaigned hard as an MP, delivering for my constituents and I will fight just as hard to become mayor so we can build on the progress under Boris in making London work for Londoners.”
A statement from the The London Jewish Forum welcomed “the nominations of Zac Goldsmith and Sadiq Khan as candidates to be Mayor of London and congratulates them on being selected. The LJF looks forward to ensuring that the views of London’s thriving Jewish community play a full part in the London mayoral election, and to engaging with the candidates as the campaign progresses”
The tory MP spoke to Jewish News in September, during which he 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”.
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.
He 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.
Mr Goldsmith, who inherited a fortune from his industrialist father Sir James, is an outspoken critic of expansion at Heathrow – like Mr Johnson – opposing a third runway at the west London airport.
He has also said he wants to ”mend our politics”, boost high streets, improve transport and provide a healthier environment.
If elected, the environmentalist is expected to step down from the Commons, triggering a by-election.
Mr Goldsmith said: “In the last seven years London has come a long way. Under Boris, London now leads the world in business, tech, media, art and culture – benefiting from unprecedented investment. It is why so many people want to live, work and do business here, and it is also putting increasing pressures on our city.
“We have seen record investment in our transport network, but we will need to continue that investment just to avoid grinding to a halt – while at the same time continuing to bear down on the cost of travel so that it delivers value for money for Londoners.
“Our living environment is facing increasing pressure, and we will need to protect, enhance and improve access to our green spaces, as well as radically improving the quality of the air that we breathe.
“But the biggest challenge of all is the housing crisis. Londoners are being priced out of their city and we will need a step change in the number of homes built, and the manner in which they are built.”
Boris Johnson MP, the current Conservative Mayor of London said: “I’m delighted for Zac – he’s principled, hard-working, and dedicated, he’s fizzing with ideas, and he’s passionate about London and its people.
“I have no doubt he’s the best candidate we could possibly have to deliver the vital infrastructure improvements, new housing, jobs and growth London’s rapidly growing population will need in the years ahead.”
Mr Goldsmith will go up against Labour mayoral candidate Sadiq Khan in the vote next year.
Mr Khan said: “I welcome Zac Goldsmith to the mayoral contest and look forward to a positive and friendly debate about the big issues facing Londoners.
“This election is a referendum on London’s housing crisis, and I challenge Zac Goldsmithto join me in opposing the Tories’ Housing Bill, which will make our city’s housing crisis many times worse.”