The newly-independent Zac Goldmsith has insisted he doesn’t have “a racist bone in my body” in response to criticism of his failed mayoral campaign.
During the campaign, in May 2016, the then-Tory MP Goldsmith tried to paint his Labour rival Sadiq Khan as an extremist.
He distributed leaflets targeted at London Hindus suggesting Khan would tax “the family jewellery” – a move panned as patronising and racially divisive.
But speaking to the Evening Standard, Goldsmith said: “I know I’m not racist and I don’t feel I have anything to prove in that department.”
He blamed the characterisation of his campaign using dogwhistle tactics as a result of him losing.
— Uma Kumaran (@Uma_Kumaran) March 14, 2016
Goldsmith quit as a Tory MP after the government made the controversial decision to back a third runway at Heathrow, thus forcing a by-election in his Richmond Park and North Kingston constituency.
He will run as an independent, but will not have to face a rival Tory candidate. Ukip has also decided not to run a candidate, with a spokesman describing the Brexiteer as a principled man.
Some have called for Labour and Green candidates to also step aside, and allow the by-election to be a straight race against a Brexit candidate and the Lib Dems.
Goldsmith told the Evening Standard that if he won, it could force a rethink on Heathrow, but if he lost, the airport’s leaders “will be licking their lips”.