Zac Goldsmith: Divide and rule is wrong


A very dear friend of mine always said to me when I was struggling with difficult issues: “When things are wrong they’re wrong. It doesn’t matter how you try and sugar coat them, or what excuse you try and make. Wrong is wrong . Simple!”

She’s right of course, and this is particularly so with certain elements of Conservative Mayoral Candidate Zac Goldsmith’s campaign.

London is the most diverse city on the planet. It’s the capital’s strength: in business, arts, culture, and in schools too. It is something we can celebrate. So the thought that a politician would either by design or default, pit one community against another, is about as shocking as it gets.

And so it is that Goldsmith’s team seem to have made  the political calculation that by targeting certain ethnic and religious communities, they can sow the seeds of division and turn one community against another for political gain.

An OBV supporter - who will remain nameless - sent me a letter that was addressed from the Prime Minister David Cameron. The letter erroneously assumed they were Sri-Lankan, perhaps Tamil, because of their surname. The letter went on to say how he, the Prime Minster had met with the Sri Lankan Prime Minister and raised concern about Human Rights abuses in 2013. He then goes on to say that Goldsmith has been a champion for the Tamil community . The next line of the letter in bold capitals warns the reader of the CORBYN- KHAN EXPERIMENT.

Any first year political student will understand that political messaging is about telling your audience who you are for and who you’re against. This letter, along with other tailored messages to the Hindu community and the Sikh community have implicit messages - we are for you, but against them. Them being “Khan”, which many would understand as Muslim.

Other aspects of this type of political messaging used by Goldsmith’s campaign again utilise word association to paint what they want their targeted audience to understand. So they have used words such as ‘radical’, ‘dangerous’ and ‘Khan’ which put together are all words we all know could easily be associated with ‘terror’ and ‘Islamic terrorism’.

These leaflets and letters on their own can easily be explained away, but together they are sadly the politics of division and should stop immediately.
A number of individuals and organisations have asked us at OBV to write to all the Mayoral candidates asking them to sign a code of conduct that both personal attacks and divisive politics will no longer be a feature of this Mayoral campaign. In the days ahead we will do that.

This is not Donald Trump land where communities are pitted one against the other for political gain. This is London where we are proud of our diversity and that in spite of our many challenges, like no other teeming metropolis, we do get on with each other.

Simon Woolley