Zac Goldsmith campaign was ‘outrageous’, says top London Tory
First Sayeed Warsi spoke out against the Tory mayoral drive, now Andrew Boff has waded in.
The most senior Conservative in the Greater London Authority has launched an excoriating attack on Zac Goldsmith’s Mayoral campaign.
Andrew Boff said the strategy of criticising Labour candidate Sadiq Khan for links to conservative Muslims had “done real damage” to the Tories’ standing.
Boff is the leader of the Conservatives in the GLA and was defeated by Goldsmith in the race to be the party’s nominee for the Mayoralty.
The Conservative tactics against Khan have been a subject of controversy for weeks, with many arguing that accusing him of being “radical” and having links to extremists were an attempt to draw attention to his Muslim faith.
Many people expressed concern over an article by Goldsmith in the Mail on Sunday that was illustrated with a picture from the 7/7 bombing and headlined: “Are we really going to hand the world’s greatest city to a Labour party that thinks terrorists are its friends?”
Former Conservative co-chairman Sayeeda Warsi tweeted after that: “Are we Conservatives fighting to destroy Zac or fighting to win this election?
“In the real world, Londoners worry about housing, jobs and NHS. In the world of politics, new reality TV show ‘Britain’s Biggest Bigot’ launched!”
On Friday, Warsi said: “The left needs to root out antisemitism in its ranks and the right needs to weed out its Islamophobes ... Dog-whistle, nasty politics is damaging the UK.”
Goldsmith subsequently admitted that the paper’s choice of image was a mistake.
Boff’s criticism, in an interview with Newsnight, is the most outspoken expression of discomfort by a Conservative about the nature of the campaign.
He said: “I think it was mostly good but I was really troubled by one particular aspect of it and that’s when he started to equate people of conservative religious views with sympathising with terrorism. That sent a message out to many of the communities in London that’s very difficult to justify...
“I don’t think it’s dog-whistle because you can’t hear a dog-whistle; everyone could hear this. It was effectively saying that people of conservative religious views are not to be trusted and you shouldn’t share a platform with them. That’s outrageous... Now those bridges that have been built, a few of them have been blown up by this campaign.”
Boff added that he was “not alone” in his opinions, and suggested that Mr Goldsmith had been leant on by his campaign team to take this attack.
“What really hurts me is that I don’t think this sounds like authentic Zac Goldsmith. This kind of politics I didn’t think was Zac. It hasn’t got his stamp on it.”
Speaking to The House magazine last month, Mr Goldsmith said if his campaign against Mr Khan was negative, "so be it".