Zac Goldsmith

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Zac Goldsmith
File:Zac Goldsmith MP at 'A New Conversation with the Centre-Right about Climate Change'.jpg
Member of Parliament
for Richmond Park
Assumed office
6 May 2010
Preceded by Susan Kramer
Majority 23,015 (38.9%)
Personal details
Born Frank Zacharias Robin Goldsmith
(1975-01-20) 20 January 1975 (age 47)
Westminster, UK
Political party Conservative
Spouse(s) Sheherazade Ventura-Bentley (1999–2010, div.)
Alice Miranda Rothschild
Children 4 (3 with Sheherazade Goldsmith. 1 with Alice Miranda Rothschild)
Residence Barnes, London
Education Cambridge Centre for Sixth-form Studies
Profession Environmentalist and politician

Frank Zacharias Robin Goldsmith (born 20 January 1975, London) is a British Conservative politician and journalist who, since 2010, has represented Richmond Park as its Member of Parliament (MP).

In 2015 Goldsmith was selected as the Conservative candidate for the 2016 London Mayoral election.[1]

From 1998 to 2007 he worked as editor of The Ecologist magazine, whilst continuing as a campaigner and commentator on environmental issue.[2] He was appointed Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Quality of Life Policy Group in 2005, co-authoring its report published in 2007.[3]

Goldsmith was placed on the Conservative "A-List" of potential candidates in 2006.[4][5] and then in March 2007, he was selected through an open primary to contest the constituency of Richmond Park against the incumbent Liberal Democrat MP, Susan Kramer.[6] At the 2010 general election, he was elected to Parliament winning the seat with a majority of 4,091.[7]

At the 2015 general election, Goldsmith was returned to the Commons with a majority of 23,015, an increase of almost 19,000 since 2010.[8]

Goldsmith is known to be one of the wealthiest MPs in Parliament, given that the bequest from his father, Sir James Goldsmith, who died shortly after the 1997 general election with a £1.2bn fortune, is subject to much scrutiny. Some tax experts have speculated Goldsmith's income could amount to as much as £5m per month from the trust left to him alone, and Goldsmith is well known for his philanthropy.[9]

Early life

Born at Westminster Hospital in London, Goldsmith is the middle child of Sir James Goldsmith, a member of the prominent Goldsmith family of German Jewish descent and his third wife, the Anglo-Irish aristocrat, Lady Annabel Vane-Tempest-Stewart. Goldsmith was brought up at Ormeley Lodge in Ham with his siblings, Jemima and Ben.[10] He has five paternal half-siblings,[11] and is also half-brother to Robin and India Jane Birley, his mother's children from her first marriage.[12] His maternal great-grandfather was the 7th Marquess of Londonderry, the well-known Ulster Unionist politician.

As a child, Goldsmith was an avid reader of naturalist Gerald Durrell's works[13] and developed a committed passion for Sir David Attenborough's wildlife programmes.[14] He later recalled, "(Sir David) was my hero, and it was his work that made me fall in love with the natural world".[15] His ecological interests were nurtured further when his father gave him a copy of Helena Norberg-Hodge's book Ancient Futures, with a note saying: "This will change your life".[16]


Goldsmith was educated at four independent schools: King's House School in Richmond and The Mall School in Twickenham, followed by Hawtreys School, near Great Bedwyn in Wiltshire,[17] and Eton College in Berkshire;[13] he achieved four A-Levels at Cambridge Centre for Sixth-Form Studies.[16][18]


Goldsmith travelled throughout the world with the International Honours Programme (courtesy of his uncle Edward Goldsmith[19]), including to Thailand, New Zealand, Mexico, Hungary and Italy. Goldsmith lived in California for two years, working at first for the think tank Redefining Progress[20] from 1995 to 1996, and later as a researcher for Norberg-Hodge's International Society for Ecology and Culture (ISEC) during 1996–98. While working with ISEC, Goldsmith travelled to India, spending a short time on an ashram in Rajasthan and later lived in Ladakh for six months, studying traditional cultures and helping run a tourist education programme.[21][22]

After his father's death in 1997, Zac Goldsmith is believed to have inherited between £200 and £300 million out of the reported £1.2 billion estate.[23]

Writing and journalism

In 1997, Goldsmith was appointed Reviews Editor of The Ecologist by his uncle Edward Goldsmith, the magazine's founding editor, owner and publisher.[24][25][26] In 1998, he became Editor-in-Chief and Director of The Ecologist but did not draw a salary.[16] He relaunched The Ecologist on 28 March 2000 in a new format, transforming its academic journal-style into a current affairs-magazine format, thereby broadening its appeal and trebling its circulation.[16][27] In January 2006, after indicating an interest in electoral politics, it was announced that he was to step down as editor.[28]

Goldsmith speaks and writes about environmental causes in Britain and has twice been invited to debate at the Oxford Union, where he delivered keynote addresses.[29][30] He writes for UK newspapers including The Mail,[31] Evening Standard,[32] Observer,[33] and The Telegraph.[34][35] He is also a contributor to magazines such as the New Statesman[36] and Quintessentially Magazine.[37]

As a contributing author of the book We Are One: A Celebration of Tribal Peoples, published in late 2009,[38] which examines the culture of peoples around the world, he explores global diversities and threats facing humankind. Among other contributors are several western writers, such as Laurens van der Post, Noam Chomsky, Claude Lévi-Strauss and also indigenous peoples, such as Davi Kopenawa Yanomami and Roy Sesana. The book is composed of a collection of photographs, statements from tribal people, and essays from international authors, politicians, philosophers, poets, artists, journalists, anthropologists, environmentalists and photojournalists. In his essay, Goldsmith talks about how his travel through the world in his youth gave him first-hand experience of the misery brought by the promise of western "progress" and "development". He reflects on the culture of these people and, in reverence to it, urges people in the modern world to question what "progress" can really mean.[39] The royalties from the sale of this book go to the indigenous rights organization, Survival International.

He is also author of The Constant Economy, which outlines his political principles and puts forward concrete policies that Britain could implement for a sustainable economy.

Political career

Quality of Life Policy group

In December 2005, David Cameron approved Goldsmith's appointment as Deputy Chairman, under former Environment Secretary John Gummer (now Lord Deben), of the Quality of Life Policy Group.[14] The group was tasked with the responsibility of examining quality of life matters such as carbon emissions and climate change, clean air and transport with a view to formulating Conservative policy.[40] The group's 600-page report, jointly authored by Goldsmith and Lord Deben, was presented at the Royal Institute of British Architects on 13 September 2007.[41]

The report's[42] recommendations included increased taxes on short-haul flights and highly polluting vehicles, with the proceeds being used to cut the cost of clean alternatives; rebates on Stamp Duty and Council Tax for people who improve the energy efficiency of their home; and in addition it proposed a moratorium on airport expansions.[43]

The report drew criticism from the Labour Party and from the UKIP MEP Roger Helmer, who termed the proposals "anti-Conservative",[44] as well as from David Wilshire, formerly Conservative MP for Spelthorne near Heathrow, who contrary to the Conservative leadership stance was in favour of a third runway.[45] The report's proposals also attracted comment from the aviation industry.[46] Cameron commended the report, pledging that many of its recommendations should be included in the Conservative manifesto.[43]

Election to Parliament

File:Zac Goldsmith KewGardens.jpg
Goldsmith campaigning at a green rally outside Kew Gardens Tube Station at Kew, London in June 2008.

In 2010, Goldsmith was selected as the Conservative candidate for the Richmond Park constituency. His place on the roster of parliamentary candidates was announced around the time of the Conservative Party's 2005 Annual Conference, where he stated he saw no contradiction between his interest in environmental issues and being a Conservative.[47] Around the same time, he commented in an interview on his backing of the Conservative Party, arguing the Labour Party had evolved into being shaped by big business and big lobby groups interests[2] and had become too authoritarian and centrist.[14] In May 2006, he was one of the prospective parliamentary candidates featuring on the Conservative 'A-List'.[14]

His family has a long history in politics. Goldsmith's grandfathers were both Conservative Members of Parliament: his paternal grandfather, Frank Goldsmith was a Conservative MP, while his mother's father represented County Down as Viscount Castlereagh (later the 8th Marquess of Londonderry), when a Unionist MP in the British House of Commons. His maternal great-grandfather, the 7th Lord Londonderry, was a well-known Ulster Unionist politician. Another maternal ancestor was the celebrated Viscount Castlereagh, Chief Secretary for Ireland and British Foreign Secretary. Before 2005, Goldsmith supported and helped with the campaigns of Michael Gove MP and Joanne Cash.[30]

On 16 March 2007, Goldsmith won an open primary, conducted by the Richmond Park Conservative Association,[30] to challenge the constituency's sitting Lib Dem MP (whom he unseated), Susan Kramer (now Baroness Kramer). He had originally planned to stand in East Hampshire, a safe Conservative seat, but he changed his mind: "I just didn't know East Hampshire... I would have had to get worked up about issues that I didn't care about. The whole thing was so artificial. I wrote to them telling them I couldn't do it", he later explained.[48]

Subject to what may be regarded by some as onesided press and media scrutiny, Goldsmith was asked to comment about donations of £7,000 to his Party while not on the electoral register. Commenting on the issue, Goldsmith explained: "everything has been declared on time and accurately; however, for a few weeks last year I was not on the Electoral Roll, my name having been removed from Kensington and Chelsea's voter list, given that I was in the process of signing up for Richmond. Whatever was donated in that time may have to be repaid, but there is no suggestion that anything other was improprietous".[49]

In late 2009, the press asserted that Goldsmith had non-domiciled status and that as a London resident, albeit a discretionary beneficiary, he has use of British properties through a trust set up by his late father.[50] Goldsmith responded, in a statement about the suggestion of tax avoidance, that he has "always chosen to be tax resident in the UK" and virtually all his income was paid to into British banks. Of non-dom status as a result of his late father's international status, Goldsmith added that he had already instructed his accountants to relinquish it of his own volition by early 2009.[51][52]

Goldsmith was returned as Member of Parliament for Richmond Park on 7 May 2015, increasing his majority from 4,091 to 23,015 votes. He also achieved an increase of 8.5 percent of the share of the vote from the 2010 election, receiving a total of 58.2 percent of all votes cast by his constituents. This was the biggest increase in majority of any MP at the 2015 UK General Election.[53]

Electoral spending

Zac Goldsmith was asked to comment about various media enquiries about his electoral spending which were subsequently determined to be unfounded. Channel 4 News raised some questions arguing "our findings do suggest that Zac Goldsmith has questions to answer about whether his spending has complied with both the letter and spirit of the law". Goldsmith denied any wrongdoing and countered by stating that Channel 4 engaged in sleazy unethical journalism.[54][55] The Bureau of Investigative Journalism complained to the Electoral Commission over the report about Goldsmith's expenses,[56] who ruled that Goldsmith had not intentionally or unintentionally broken any rules.[57][58]

On 15 July 2010, Goldsmith appeared in a live interview on Channel 4 News where the media outlet sought to ask questions about electoral expenses, which were later determined to be unfounded.[59][60] Goldsmith attempted to present some facts with regards the details of when and how he had been asked to appear but was repeatedly interrupted by Jon Snow. Jon Snow appearing to seek to present an alternative view about the arrangements for the interview also said Goldsmith was "prevaricating" and running them out of time. In the discussion that ensued each party made allegations about the other. Snow suggested Goldsmith take the matter to OFCOM. The basis of Channel 4's enquiries were found by the Electoral Commission to be unfounded and OFCOM did not uphold Zac Goldsmith's specific complaint.[60][61]

Snow raised two questions about his expenses. The first was about signs: "You expended £2,800 on 600 signs but £262 is what you said you spent when you told the Electoral Commission on your return". The response was "The formula we used is exactly the same formula ... as used by MPs and candidates around the country. Every decision we took was approved by electoral experts at Conservative Central Office". Snow said they were investigating 30 MPs and in terms of scale, Goldsmith's expenses far outstripped the others. The claim was reduced because the signs had been allocated to the local election budget. It was debated whether signs that said "Vote Zac Goldsmith" and "Vote Conservative" could be charged to the election budget for a local election candidate when that other candidate was not mentioned on the sign. The response was that it had been "checked" and that was "standard practice" across the country. The second question was about jackets with "I back Zac" stickers on the back. "They cost £2,168 but you only said you paid (spent) £170". The response was that the stickers cost £170 and the jackets had not been customised for the Zac Goldsmith campaign. "They are off the shelf. Look at them", Goldsmith responded further, adding that they were generic jackets and will be used in other election campaigns.[62]

Channel 4 News presented their case online including scans of the spending documents.[63] Goldsmith has posted a response on his blog.[64] The interview itself became a news item.[65] On 21 July 2010, the Electoral Commission announced that, following their initial 5-day assessment, they have decided to upgrade the investigation to the status of "case under review"[66] and that they will make enquiries "in order to establish the facts of the matter".[67] The Commission reported in December 2010: they decided there was no further case to answer and that there was no intentional rule-breaking but they did observe that the cost-sharing between general election and local elections contests was "not consistent with the Commission's guidance or good practice", that the submission was "unclear in places" and the Goldsmith's campaign may have overspent by £966 in the short campaign.[57][58]

Political positions

An enthusiastic advocate of direct democracy, such as Switzerland's model of using referenda, Goldsmith believes it would help combat feelings of disenfranchisement among people and increase accountability.[68] Among his key interests is education; in an interview with Fairtrade fashion designers People Tree, he said "I've put a big emphasis on schools. One campaign is to ensure every school [is] fitted with a proper kitchen that can double up as a classroom. Children need to know where their food comes from and how to cook it. We're also trying to help every school source its food sustainably and locally".[69]

Local issues

On a local level Goldsmith has been involved in campaigns within his constituency of Richmond Park, in matters such as schools, hospitals and recreation areas.

In 2007, he opposed the opening of a superstore by supermarket chain Sainsbury's in Barnes. He spearheaded a referendum conducted by the Electoral Reform Society to poll local residents on the issue, working closely with a local campaign group. With a turnout of 61.6%, more than 4,000 residents, who made up 85% of the votes cast, came forward to oppose the construction of the store at White Hart Lane. Sainsbury's ultimately opened the branch after revising its planning application.[70][71]

The government department with ultimate responsibility for the Royal Parks, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), is looking to recover its expenditure on a programme of remedial works on the public car parks in Richmond Park through the introduction of parking fees for visitors. Goldsmith organised a "mass rally", attended by over 1,000 people,[72] in the Royal Park on 30 January 2010 in conjunction with other local Conservatives to protest about the proposed charging.[73]

On 10 June 2012, Goldsmith told the BBC's Sunday Politics programme that he would not stand as a Conservative at the next election if the party supported a third runway at Heathrow airport.[74]

Child abuse inquiry group

Goldsmith co-ordinated a cross-party group of MPs to call for a Hillsborough-style inquiry into child sex abuse.[75] He co-wrote a letter to Home Secretary Theresa May demanding a full independent inquiry with six other MPs: Tim Loughton, Tom Watson, Simon Danczuk, John Hemming, Tessa Munt and Caroline Lucas. Prime Minister David Cameron initially rejected the call but was subsequently forced to concede, after 145 further MPs added their names to Goldsmith et al.'s letter.[76]


On 23 December 2008, the political blogger Paul Staines (aka "Guido Fawkes") wrote that he had been served with a super-injunction prohibiting any mention of both itself and recent hacking into his own e-mail account as well as those of Goldsmith's then wife (Sheherazade Goldsmith) and sister (Jemima Khan). The existence of the injunction was revealed by a Wikileaks press release dated 24 December 2008.

London mayoral nomination

On 9 June 2015, Goldsmith announced his interest in running for the mayoralty of London after encouragement both from members of his own party and others (notably the Greens).[77][78] Goldsmith sought his Richmond Park constituents' consent by a postal ballot (at his own expense) before formally declaring.[79] Richmond Park voters backed Goldsmith's candidature for the 2016 mayoral election by a ratio of 4:1 following which,[80] on 23 June 2015, he formally put his name forward[81] and, on 2 October, Goldsmith was selected as the Conservative candidate for the London mayoral election, 2016.[82]

Fundraising and awards

File:Revolve Eco Rally 2007.jpg
Sir Stirling Moss, Goldsmith and HRH Prince Charles at the launch of the annual Revolve Eco-Rally on 3 June 2007.

Goldsmith has been a member of the advisory board of the JMG Foundation, which disburses grants globally to a range of environmental advocacy groups using the financial legacy left by Sir James Goldsmith.[83] He is also on the National Gardens Scheme's Council of Trustees as one of four Ambassadors.[84] He is a Patron of the Mihai Eminescu Trust which conserves and maintains communities in Transylvania and the Maramureş,[85] and the philanthropic organization, Fortune Forum (together with Jimmy Wales).[86]

In November 2002, Goldsmith helped establish FARM, a campaigning organisation for British farmers.[87] Goldsmith also funded the Organic Targets Bill Campaign to promote organic farming in 1999.[88] He is a longstanding donor to the Soil Association. In 2007, he was a participant at the Soil Association Annual Conference, during which he competed in an organic fashion show on 25 January[89] and afterwards debating on a Question Time panel on 27 January.[90]

In 2003, Goldsmith was awarded the Beacon Prize as Young Philanthropist of the Year for his contribution to environmental awareness and protection.[88] The following year, he received the Mikhail Gorbachev-founded Green Cross International's Global Green Award for International Environmental Leadership.[91]

In 2011, Goldsmith was joint winner of the inaugural BusinessGreen Politician of the Year Award with Tim Yeo MP.[92]

In 2014, Goldsmith was also awarded by The Patchwork Foundation for being The Best Conservative Newcomer MP of the Year.[93]

Family and personal life

Goldsmith was married for ten years to Sheherazade Ventura-Bentley with whom he has three children: two daughters, Uma Romaine and Thyra, and a son, James.[94] The couple married on 5 June 1999, in a ceremony at St Simon Zelotes Church in Chelsea followed by a reception at The Ritz Hotel.[95] The Goldsmith couple separated in April 2009,[96] and received a decree nisi on 10 May 2010 after an "admission of adultery".[96][97][98] Sheherazade and Zac Goldsmith were featured in Vanity Fair's 67th Annual International Best-Dressed List among "Best-Dressed Couples".[99] Goldsmith revealed, in 2000, that he wore recycled Savile Row suits which had belonged to his late father.[16]

On 14 March 2013, Goldsmith married secondly banking heiress Alice Miranda Rothschild at London Wetland Centre in his constituency.[100] Alice is a daughter of Anita Patience (née Guinness) of the Irish aristocratic brewing family by businessman The Hon. Amschel Rothschild.[101][102] Their daughter, Dolly Goldsmith, was born in August 2013.[103] Alice's sister, Kate Rothschild and his brother Ben Goldsmith had been married until 2012.[104][105]

Goldsmith, a backgammon and poker player, also pursues other sporting interests including cricket.[13] He and his family live in Barnes.

See also


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External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Susan Kramer
Crowned Portcullis.svg
Member of Parliament
for Richmond Park