Image from the Guardian
Everyone is pretty delighted that Caroline Lucas won the first seat in the UK Parliament for the Green Party. But there is another prominent environmentalist who also got in: Zac Goldsmith. He won for the Conservative Party.
Goldsmith is a high profile and impressive candidate. He was owner and editor of the Ecologist magazine and has been involved in numerous environmental campaigns and issues over the past few years. Read on to see how he was not your usual candidate, but in class-ridden England, he is your usual Conservative stereotype in many ways.
Image from Mail Online
Goldsmith is your dream candidate: good looking, articulate, charming and rich. He is upper class, private school educated and has great lineage. His mother is Lady Annabel Goldsmith, whose £300million put her at 178th place on the Rich List. His sister is Jemima Kahn, stalwart of the society pages, formerly married to famous cricket player Imran Kahn and then girlfriend of Hugh Grant.
He himself has had some high level gossip stories: left his wife after an affair with another aristo' and a massive divorce settlement looms. Had off-shore tax status (which means he didn't pay any taxes on his massive inheritance here in the UK) but came clean before the campaign started and has given up that status.
Richmond is a lovely, leafy area, one of the wealthiest in Britain, with well-educated residents and Kew Gardens nearby and, as the Times put it " with the most shops selling organic apple and almond Normandy tart per head of the population anywhere in the UK."
It has been Liberal Democrat for the past 5 years. The campaign was a no-holds barred fight with the sitting Member who was a former City banker. There were a lot of accusations beck and forth about personal money being poured into the campaign, closing of hospitals and many other incendiary accusations, all out-lined in Goldsmith's blog.
Image from the Guardian
As in all of the campaigns during the election, the issues that concerned people most were local issues. Caroline Lucas in her winning speech acknowledged that her first responsibility was towards her constituency.
Lucas is a Green Party member and she will be allied with Labour on most issues because they share many views. Goldsmith is a Conservative; he supports cutting taxes, opposes the Heathrow airport third terminal and waffles on immigration.
So far he does not seem to have had any problems with potential contradictions between his environmentalism and the Party. In an interview he explained: "Progressives tend to be associated with democracy, reining in the political influence of big business, social justice, environmentalism. I'd like to see more of all these things, and in that sense am a progressive. But essentially I am a conservative who believes in decentralisation, the human scale, light government and trust. I believe a move towards direct democracy would bridge the gap between people and politics, and would result in a much more receptive decision-making process. "
It will be fascinating to see how he will balance his views with those of the Party as the year unfolds.