It's a wet winter's Wednesday, and having been greeted with big smiles as I walk into the offices of the Richmond Park and North Kingston Conservative Association, I am told that Zac Goldsmith is still in a meeting about constituency literature and so I will have to wait. No worries, I am assured that he is worth it I tell myself.
After a while, I see Zac walking out of the back office with a smile on his face as he gives me a very firm handshake. As soon as we sit down and start to talk you can immediately see his passion for politics, a passion rarely seen in politicians today.
I asked him about why he wanted to become a politician when he was already the editor of the Ecologist magazine, and he explained to me that he felt he could affect more things as an MP: “I can take issues now to the people who can be decisive. For example I am trying to persuade the Prime Minister to demarcate overseas territories as giant marine protected areas, for example Pitcairn, ascension Island, South Georgia, which between them, if he were to do what I asked him to do, would be the biggest single environmental measure by any government ever, and costs almost nothing to achieve.” He went on to explain just why he loves being an MP: “When you talk to people about their individual problems and then fire off a strategic letter, a bossy letter, or even a threatening letter, where you just cut through the bureaucracy with no power at all; I have no more power as an MP than anyone else has, just letters after my name. One carefully targeted letter can change things immediately. I enjoy that a lot.”
He briefly explained his Euroscepticism after I mentioned his father, campaigner James Goldsmith: “it's not so much about the quality of the decisions made by Europe, although you can take many issues with the decisions made in the European Union, for me the issue is democracy.”
However one of the issues Zac is most involved in is the Recall Bill. The process by which MPs can be removed by their constituents if more than 50% sign a petition at the Town Hall. He said: “We need it because people feel alienated from politics and from politicians. There is a sense that people have no control and the gap between them and people in power has grown too wide, and that politicians can't be held to account.”
“It is the case that as an MP I am pretty much untouchable until the next general election. So if I had chosen four and a half years ago to switch to the BNP or not to engage with any of my constituents, or not to turn up to parliament, anything apart from having gone to jail for 12 months or more I would have been completely insulated from any kind of accountability from constituents, and that's a problem. I can't think of any other area of human endeavour where people are less accountable than in politics today.” He speaks with such feeling about this topic, that it is plain to see that this man is not your “typical Westminster politician”, only out to help himself to expenses.
“The sense of helplessness and powerlessness that people feel is not good for our democracy. It's breeds that response from people like Russell Brand, who say it's all a load of rubbish, let's walk away and boycott politics. If you do that logically things will get worse. If you have a problem with the way we do politics then it's incumbent upon you to try and improve it, and that's what I'm trying to do.” He finished by saying: “If you're complacent about your democracy and you don't let it evolve then there's a chance that sooner or later you're going to lose it.”
His most important issue with government is their lack of action on the environment. His uncle was the founder of the now Green Party, and so he grew up learning a lot about the troubles our planet is facing.
“It's a question of maths. As our hunger for resources continues to escalate, and the world is not growing, so we are going to hit a wall at some point.”
His most shocking example of humans not living within their means came when he described the world's fisheries: “here were 17 major fisheries in the world on which we depend for most of the fish we eat and 15 of those have either collapsed completely or they're on the verge of collapse.”
It is clear that Zac Goldsmith is committed to working tirelessly to get his bills passed in Parliament, and to campaign to promote the problems we face with the environment. He said work had already started, but more needs to be done: “In every sector of what needs to be done there are people starting and trailblazing, but no where are all these solutions happening under one umbrella.”