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Zac Goldsmith's support for EU exit is another boost for Sadiq Khan

The Tory mayoral candidate has pitched himself against London voters - the most pro-European in the country.

If nothing changes, Zac Goldsmith will lose the London mayoral election to Sadiq Khan. His decision to back EU withdrawal won’t help his cause. By affirming his lifelong position, the Conservative candidate has taken a principled stance but a politically foolish one. London is the most pro-EU region of the country and Khan, an unambiguous supporter, can now relentlessly harness that vote (the contest takes place on 5 May, shortly before the referendum on 23 June).

Goldsmith’s decision will aid Khan’s effort to position himself as the true pro-business candidate. The City of London is firmly opposed to Brexit and is satisfied with the safeguards David Cameron has achieved for non-eurozone states. Pro-European groups such as the CBI and London First will put Goldsmith's stance under particular scrutiny.

Labour tweeted in response to his announcement: “No serious candidate for Mayor of London would put the prosperity of our city at risk by voting to leave the EU”. Uncomfortably for Goldsmith, it appears that David Cameron agrees. As he sought to persuade Boris Johnson not to support withdrawal (an effort that has likely failed), Cameron told friends: “I can’t understand why Boris, as leader of the great financial capital, won’t support the City”. It will now be far harder for the PM and the pro-EU George Osborne to campaign alongside Goldsmith. 

The consolation for the latter is that he will be on the same side as the incumbent mayor (though he risks looking like a weak imitation). But the blanket coverage that the referendum will now attract will make it harder for him to win. The more attention is drawn away from the mayoral contest, the less likely it is that Goldsmith will be able to overcome Khan’s double-digit polling lead. That he finds himself on the opposite side to Londoners on the defining political question of the day will only lengthen the odds on his candidacy.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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The NS Podcast #230: It's (New) Party Time

The New Statesman podcast.

Helen is joined by Anoosh to consider whether a new political party would have any chance of success in the UK. Then they discuss the TV shows everyone really likes to watch but doesn't admit to and analyse why the quality of Don't Tell The Bride has declined. Finally, a bumper You Asked Us section including listener questions on social care, punching Nazis, the Tory economic agenda and more.

You can subscribe to the podcast through iTunes here or with this RSS feed: http://rss.acast.com/newstatesman, or listen using the player below.

 

Further reading:

The NS centenary debate from 2013 - did the left win the twentieth century?

Meet the Ivanka Voter by Anne Helen Petersen on Buzzfeed.

Anoosh on the EDL.

Why is Love Island so Tory?

How Don't Tell the Bride lost its spark

Take Me Out and the failures of feminism by Alan White.