Sunday, November 29, 2009

Richmond Park: Lib Dem Hold

News of the day is that Zac Goldsmith, the Conservative for Richmond Park, has admitted that he claims non-domicile tax status.

How this will go down with the hard-pressed taxpayers of Richmond we can, I think, all imagine. More damaging still may be the light that will be shed upon Goldsmith environmental credentials.

It is not so much that the Sunday Times report reveals his great wealth:
Goldsmith’s 300-acre ecological farm in Devon and a house in Richmond are both owned by companies based in the Cayman Islands. The farm was bought in 2001 and the house in Richmond was bought in 2007 for £7.75m. A house in Fulham, west London, was bought in 2004 and is owned by an investment company based in Liverpool.
though some will ask how this extraordinary personal wealth can be squared with Goldsmith's talk in an Evening Standard article from September of "insatiable consumption". I presume what he meant was other people are consuming too much. I am not sure there is a logical contradiction here, but it suggests Goldsmith lacks a sense of the ridiculous.

No, what will really damage Goldsmith is that this story will bring his local credentials into question.

Go to the What the papers are saying... page of Goldsmith's website and you will find quotation like this:
For Goldsmith, it (Richmond Park Constituency) is eminently winnable – not least because he’s local - Evening Standard.
Zac's passion for the natural world is rooted in local soil - The Richmond Magazine.

Zac Goldsmith is helping to turn the Tories green. He is also one of Richmond’s proudest sons - The Richmond Magazine.

This matters. It happens that I cut my political teeth in Richmond in the 1980s and I think I understand the constituency. People who live in urban villages like Kew adopt green and community causes in part because it is a way of showing that they have arrived and no longer live in a faceless suburb where the only thing to do is moan about the level of council tax.

The Tories realise this, which is why they were clever in adopting a liberal candidate in Jeremy Hanley at the 1983 election. He managed to hold on to the old Richmond and Barnes seat for them by just 74 votes. (Even so, a more energetic Liberal candidate than Alan Watson would have won it that year.)

Zac Goldsmith must have looked like a super-Hanley to Richmond Tories when he was adopted, but he does not look that way tonight. Look how "a spokesman for Goldsmith" attempts to defend him in the Sunday Times:

“Zac Goldsmith, along with other members of his family, some of whom live in different parts of the world, is a discretionary beneficiary of a trust ... The trust owns a number of properties around the world,” the spokesman said.

“The UK element of the trust’s portfolio includes homes which are made available for Zac and his family. These homes are not owned by Zac and are trust assets."

Doesn't look so local now, does he?

Note, too, that though the Tories urge home ownership on everyone, even to those who can scarcely afford it, Goldsmith at the age of 34 does not own his own house. Isn't that rather demeaning?

As well as being dismayed at his avoidance of tax and disappointed at his tarnished local credentials, the people of Richmond may decide that they do not want to be represented by an economic adolescent.

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Matthew Huntbach said...

Mr Goldsmith has declared himself to be a foreigner in order to avoid paying British taxes. So, this foreigner who has declared he has no long-term interest in Britain, he is just temporarily using our country for business - that's what "non-dom" means - nevertheless want to become one of our rulers, imposing taxes on us that he wouldn't pay himself.

We might perhaps work out how much this ruse has saved Mr Goldsmith in terms of paying British taxes, and how many low-waged public service workers have been made redundant in order that Mr Goldsmith can live his life of untaxed luxury. Then we might perhaps find such people and ask them how happy they must feel to have lost their jobs in order to have Mr Goldsmith living such a contented life and being such a beacon the rest of us can look up to as an example of where hard work gets you.

Foregone Conclusion said...

When I first heard about Zac Goldsmith and how much he cared about the environment, I thought 'why isn't he a Liberal Democrat?' I put it down to friendship and family networks.

Now I know why.