Zac Goldsmith has long existed in his own unfortunate political microclimate. Ever since he left the government and stood down as an MP in 2016, forcing a by-election on a point of principle (Heathrow’s third runway), only for his constituents to, on a different point of principle entirely (Brexit), elect someone else, his career has followed a bizarre flight path.
Still, having stood down on a point of principle and lost, he was re-elected a year later, returning to the government he had resigned from over a point of principle. And then last month, on a point of principle, his constituents kicked him out once more.
In many ways then, the House of Lords was literally the only place left for the script writers to take him. And here we was, on Monday afternoon, silk tie under chin, ermine slung over shoulders, taking his last and best principled stand, against the voters who have quite frankly done nothing but try to frustrate him throughout his failure of a political career.
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It is a career that requires its own Gaia hypothesis. Resigning over a point of principle, and in so doing accidentally revealing the obvious truth that you have no principles at all, has left him curiously out of whack with his own party’s fortunes.
On the disastrous election night of 2017, he quietly got his seat back. Last month he was accidentally wiped out in his own landslide, an embarrassment that will now be preserved for all time in the House of Lords, like that petrified man caught wanking at Pompeii.
Other ironies permeate, of course. The only faintly indelible mark he has thus far left on public life is the newish law that allows for constituents to recall their MPs in the event of gross misconduct (it was successfully used on the Peterborough Nigel Mansell, Fiona Onasanya, just last year).
Now, naturally, he begins the next phase of his career, in one of the very few chambers of any democracy, anywhere in the world, in which the voters have no power of recall over its members, whatsoever.
Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park, he has chosen to title himself, bravely taking the name of the place from which he has just been chucked out. TV chefs are frankly underrepresented in the upper chamber. We must hope one day to be able to welcome Lord Worrall Thompson of Tesco’s.
It’s probably for the best. Elections just get Zac Goldsmith into trouble. For one thing, his success in his principled by-election stand against the Heathrow runway in 2016 was severely undermined by the countless public occasions on which he admitted massively regretting ever making the promise in the first place. Principles look less principled when you make clear you never thought anyone would ever test you on them.
Indeed, hoping to get out of keeping his word was a significant factor in his decision to run for mayor of London, but the voters cocked that one up as well. Almost four years later, Zachariah, the Baron Goldsmith, still gets somewhat touchy whenever that subject is mentioned.
During an interview in November 2016, The Independent had the temerity to ask him about it, about how it had been labelled variously as both “disgusting” and “racist” (though we did not mention his having been publicly disowned over it by his own sister).
That ended with one of his people complaining he had been “treated unfairly”, and in the years since, rarely more than a few months transpire without the Baron Zachariah making some sort of public dig in return.
To be clear, as it happens, I don’t think Goldsmith is in any way racist, even if he did put leaflets through the letterboxes in Tamil communities claiming that Sadiq Khan was going to steal the family jewellery. He was just too useless to stand up to the entirely malignant forces who ran his campaign for him, not realising that, given his name was above the door, it would be he and he alone that would be left to carry the reputational can for it for the rest of his life.
But such things happen, indeed such things can only happen, to people who live their lives hopelessly out of their depth by virtue of the good fortune of their birth.
It hurts, being treated unfairly by the media as there’s so little you can do about it. At least when you’re treated unfairly by the voters, there’s always the House of Lords. In so many ways, it wasn’t so much a new beginning, as a coming home.