Zac Goldsmith

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Zac Goldsmith

Zac Goldsmith (born 20 January 1975) is a British politician, ecologist, journalist and the green adviser to David Cameron. He was selected as the Conservative Parliamentary candidate for Richmond Park and North Kingston at an Open Primary in March 2007.[1] In May 2010 he was elected MP.

Goldsmith says he chose to back the Tories because Labour had become "the party of big business":

"You can judge Mr Blair's position on almost any issue on the basis of what would the big lobby groups want him to do," he argues.[2]

Contents

Background

Zac Goldsmith is the son of right-wing financier and eurosceptic James Goldsmith.

He is a grandson of Major Frank Goldsmith Conservative MP for Stowmarket, Suffolk 1910-1918, and of Robin Vane-Tempest-Stewart, (8th Marquis of Londonderry) Unionist MP for County Down 1931-45. He is a great-grandson of Charles Vane-Tempest-Stewart (7th Marquis of Londonderry), Conservative MP for Maidstone 1906-15.[3]

Affiliations

Controversies

Non-domicile status

According to an article in The Times in November 2009, Zac Goldsmith admitted that he claimed off-shore non-domicile tax status, "enabling him to avoid huge sums of tax on his estimated £200m fortune" from his late father, Sir James Goldsmith.[5] Since the news became public and David Cameron publicly told him to end it, he renounced his non-dom status in December 2009.[6][7]

The Times article said the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne "has calculated that Goldsmith is likely to have avoided, at a conservative estimate, around £580,000 a year in UK taxes over the past decade as a result of being defined as a non-dom."[8] Although Goldsmith dismissed Huhne's figures as "fantasy", he had not yet published his tax returns to prove that the "vast majority" of his income comes to the UK and is taxed there as he claims.[9]

On his blog, Zac Goldsmith replied to the press reports on his tax status as follows:

The Lib Dems have made false claims about my Tax status, which made national news. In the media stampede, there is no doubt the Lib Dems won the PR war. But it was based on nonsense.
There were 4 claims: that I was non-resident, non-tax resident, that I owed millions to the taxman, and that I had only changed my status following pressure from others.
In fact I have always been resident in the UK, and have always chosen to be tax resident in the UK. I therefore haven’t merely paid tax on UK income – but on income generally – at the full rate. Non-dom status can mean many things. Through my choices, it offered me little benefit, a fact that has been confirmed in writing by PricewaterhouseCoopers.
The Lib Dem assertion that trust-ownership of my home leaves the taxman short makes no sense and is wrong. When a person’s primary home is sold, there is no Capital Gains Tax to pay. Not so the trust-owned home I occupy if it is sold for a gain. The taxman will therefore gain from these arrangements.
I no longer have non-dom status, a decision that I took before being approached by any newspapers, and which will apply as of a full year before the launch of this election.[10]

An article on Zac Goldsmith's tax status in The Guardian said that he "confirmed that he retained the non-domiciled tax status inherited from his billionaire father, Sir James Goldsmith. He said he had derived 'very few' benefits from being a non-dom and had already decided to give it up."[11]

Conservative Party donor

According to Times Online, "[t]he Conservative party hid donations of £40,000 from Zac Goldsmith, his brother Ben and two billionaire brothers in an apparent breach of the law."[12] The donations adding up to £40,000 in series of cash gifts to the party between 2005 and 2008 were registered with the Electoral Commission as coming from Unicorn Administration, a wealth management firm. However, the money had been paid by a number of donors including Zac Goldsmith, his brother Ben Goldsmith, his wife Kate Goldsmith, a member of the Rothschild family.[13]

There has been no suggestion that any of the donors or Unicorn Administration acted improperly, and all were eligible to provide funds. It is known that the Goldsmiths have been regular Conservative Party donors in the past and their names are lodged with the Electoral Commission. However, the Conservatives failed to tell the Electoral Commission, the official watchdog, even though electoral law makes it clear that the true source of funds must not be concealed.[14][15]

Expenses Questions over 2010 election campaign

A joint investigation by Channel 4 News and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism raised questions over Zac Goldsmith's 2010 election campaign. The Electoral Commission spending limit for candidates in Goldsmith's Richmond Park constituency of £11,003 to spend on short campaign materials in the 23 days before polling day. Goldsmith’s expenses declaration says that he came £220 below this with a campaign total of £10,783. The investigation found that the Goldsmith campaign spent some £2,800 for 600 signs. According to the report:

When it came to declaring how much the campaign spent on these signs during the key campaigning period, the amount is reduced by 90 per cent – to just £262. This reduction helped to keep him under his legal spending limit. It appears he managed to do this by claiming half these costs were for another campaign – but he has not revealed which one. Costs are also reduced further by saying, for example, some signs were used before parliament was dissolved.

The investigation also found that:

A quarter of the costs of the signs – some £700 – was moved from Goldsmith’s own personal parliamentary campaign, onto the expenses of local Conservative candidates in the council election, despite the fact that they all appear to bear the face and name of Zac Goldsmith.

Political funding expert Professor Keith Ewing argued that ‘I would think it would be quite hard to see how it would be possible to argue that a poster which contains only the image of a candidate for a particular election could be said to be poster which is designed to promote the election of anyone other than the candidate in question.’ The report also quotes Tony Stafford from the Electoral Commission as saying ‘Certainly if you’ve got something that clearly identifies the candidate and encourages people to vote for the candidate then you’d call that a candidate return.’ Goldsmith’s team also spent over £2,000 on 200 blue “I back Zac” jackets for his campaigners the cost of them was reduced in his spending declaration by 90 per cent because the cost of the jacket was separated from the cost of the sticker. The investigation argued that:

According to the invoice that Channel 4 News has seen, the full cost of 200 of these was £2,168. Removing the cost of the jackets took more than £1,400 from his declared campaign spend, leaving £753. The Goldsmith team made further deductions by saying for example that he did not use all the “I back Zac” stickers, and that left him with a total declared campaign spend for these 200 jackets of just £170. Again, if Goldsmith was wrong to leave the cost of the jackets out of his declaration, he would be over his legal limit.

The campaign also spent over £14,000 on 272,000 campaign leaflets. This cost was defragged by claiming that he simply did not use 62,000 of them. This cut his spending declaration by over £2,500. The investigation consulted election expert Professor Justin Fisher about this and he argued that It would seem to me to be logical to claim for the ones they’ve ordered because these are materials for the purposes of the campaign. It also would be impossible to audit. You can audit the receipt for the items ordered, you can’t audit whether or not something’s been delivered.

Goldsmith’s election agent argued against the investigation saying that ‘We were scrupulous in ensuring that all our election expenses complied with both the letter and the spirit of Electoral Commission rules.’[16] Goldsmith himself described the investigation as 'sleazy journalism'[17]

The Monsanto edition of The Ecologist pulped by printers

Zac Goldsmith devoted the October 1998 edition of The Ecologist to exposé articles about Monsanto.

The day before the October issue was to be released, Goldsmith received an unexpected call. Penwells, The Ecologist's printer for the past 25 years, expressed concern about the content of the issue. Under British law, a printer can be held liable for distributing libelous material.

Goldsmith assured Penwells that the new issue had been thoroughly checked. He reminded the printer that The Ecologist had never been sued in 29 years.

The following day, Penwells asked The Ecologist to send a letter to Monsanto's lawyers requesting that if the issue were considered libelous, Monsanto would agree to sue only the editors, editorial board, and owners. Monsanto refused to agree. The next day, Penwells shredded 14,000 copies of The Ecologist.

In the end, the edition was printed by another printer.[18]

Writings and publications on the LM network

Zac Goldsmith has written articles in mainstream newspapers exposing the links between Sense About Science and the LM network.

In 2003 Zac Goldsmith, in his role as editor of The Ecologist, published an article on Sense About Science and its links with the LM network:

  • Andy Rowell and Jonathan Matthews, "Strange Bedfellows," The Ecologist, May 2003, accessed 29 April 2010.

Resources

Notes

  1. Zac Goldsmith, About Zac, accessed 29 April 2010.
  2. Wheeler, Brian, Interview: Zac Goldsmith, BBC News, 11 January 2006, accessed 29 April 2010.
  3. Sarah Priddy, PIL: Current Members Related to Other Current or Former Members - Commons Library Standard Note, 13 September 2013.
  4. All-Party Register, 30 September 2010, accessed October 2010.
  5. Woolf, Marie, "Tory Zac Goldsmith admits he is a non-dom," Times Online, 29 November 2009, accessed 29 April 2010.
  6. Wintour, Patrick and Andrew Sparrow, "David Cameron tells Zac Goldsmith to end 'non-dom' tax status," Guardian, 01 December 2009, accessed 29 April 2010.
  7. Porter, Andrew, "Zac Goldsmith gives up non-dom status after row," Telegraph, 03 December 2009, accessed 29 April 2010.
  8. Helm, Toby and Rajeev Syal, "Tory candidate Zac Goldsmith accused of avoiding £5.8m tax as non-dom," Guardian, 13 December 2009, accessed 29 April 2010.
  9. Helm, Toby and Rajeev Syal, "Tory candidate Zac Goldsmith accused of avoiding £5.8m tax as non-dom," Guardian, 13 December 2009, accessed 29 April 2010.
  10. Zac Goldsmith blog, Zac's Tax Status, accessed 29 April 2010.
  11. White, Michael, "I'm non-domiciled but not a tax dodger, says Tory candidate Zac Goldsmith," The Guardian, 29 November 2010, accessed 29 April 2010.
  12. Woolf, Marie and Solomon Hughes, "Tories covered up cash donations from Zac Goldsmith," Times Online, 10 January 2010, accessed 29 April 2010.
  13. Prince, Rosa, "Zac Goldsmith donations 'improperly registered' by Tories," Telegraph, 10 January 2010, accessed 29 April 2010.
  14. Woolf, Marie and Solomon Hughes, "Tories covered up cash donations from Zac Goldsmith," Times Online, 10 January 2010, accessed 29 April 2010.
  15. Prince, Rosa, "Zac Goldsmith donations 'improperly registered' by Tories," Telegraph, 10 January 2010, accessed 29 April 2010.
  16. Bureau of Investigative Journalism, Questions over Zac Goldsmith's election expenses, Bureau of Investigative Journalism, 15-July-2010
  17. BBC News, Complaint over Tory MP Zac Goldsmith's election budget, BBC News, 15-July-2010
  18. Lilliston, Ben, "Shredding `The Ecologist' - printer feared libel suit from conglomerate," The Progressive, February 1999, accessed 29 April 2010.
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