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15 March 2016

The deafening dogwhistle of Zac Goldsmith’s London mayoral campaign leaflets

Leaflets show the Tory mayor candidate’s interesting attitude towards ethnic minority voters.

By media mole

Zac Goldsmith, the Tories’ London mayoral candidate, has offended voters with some campaign literature targeted at specific ethnic communities.

Look at this leaflet his team has sent out:

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And here’s the back, as obtained by

He has been accused of crass targeting of Indian voters with praise for the controversial Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

By claiming that Labour supports a “tax on family jewellery” (a sort of imaginative interpretation of shadow chancellor John McDonnell’s support for a wealth tax), Goldsmith has tried to engage communities that traditionally keep gold and valuable heirlooms in the family.

But his dogwhistle may have been a little too loud. Because he has attracted criticism from all corners. A site called Daily Sikh Updates has called the leaflets “a disastrous move to entice the ‘ethnic’ vote”:

“In what can only be described as an ill-informed and arrogant mailshot, Goldsmith’s team targeted the postal addresses of tens of thousands of Londoners of “Indian” origin.

“Zac Goldsmith’s mailshot was personally addressed to each householder and also reached the homes of the 120,000 Sikhs living in London. For some bizarre reason, Goldsmith assumed all the 120,000 Sikhs were middle-class Hindus, running family businesses, concerned about burglaries and possessions whilst welcoming to Modi’s UK visit last year . . .

“To assume the London Sikhs are so easily satisfied to be targeted with the same narratives intended for middle-class Hindu voters still shows a poor understanding of the London ethnic landscape, particularly as Sikhs have contributed to London for over 100 years.”

Goldsmith was also accused of “scaremongering” and “patronising” London’s Asian communities by the Labour MP Tulip Siddiq and Labour political adviser Uma Kumaran, both of whom are Londoners with ethnic backgrounds.

Siddiq said:

“The Tories are running a desperate and negative campaign for Mayor of London.

“It’s no surprise that they have resorted to sending out these scaremongering and totally dishonest leaflets.

“Zac Goldsmith just doesn’t understand the great diversity of our City – he is not fit to be Mayor.

“His campaign is patronising London’s communities by trying to scare them with the threat of a non-existent jewellery tax, rather than focusing on the big issues like housing, transport and policing.”

And, in a series of tweets, Kumaran – who is Tamil – wrote:

“@ZacGoldsmith why is a reason for Tamils to vote for u based on jewellery? Patronising nonsense. Talk to Londoners abt housing/jobs/economy.

“Tory campaign for Mayor pathetic. Trying to divide communities, inflammatory language and scare mongering. Londoners are better than that.

“Don’t know which is worse, assuming tht b/c I’m Asian, primary concerns are jewellery/biz or tht this is now mainstream form of campaigning.”

Goldsmith’s campaign has also been accused of coded criticism of Islam, attempting to use “smears and insinuations” – in the words of the Muslim Council of Britain – about Khan’s Muslim faith to attract voters. Goldsmith has even accused his rival of “playing the race card”, and described him as “radical and divisive”.