In an exclusive interview with PinkNews, Conservative mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith has hit out at religious extremism, supported PrEP and says he wants to be pansexual for all of London.
Zac is hoping to replace current mayor Boris Johnson who is standing down after two terms and saw London through such things as the 2012 Olympic Games.
A divisive figure in the Conservatives, Zac is the son of Sir James Goldsmith, who founded the eurosceptic Referendum Party that, although short-lived, is believed to have helped Labour win the 1997 general election, by driving votes from the Tories.
Currently an MP for Richmond Park, before seeking the nomination Zac balloted his constituents – who supported his candidacy on a ratio of 4:1.
We did some polling with YouGov and found that London was actually the most intolerant part of the UK for LGBT issues. Does that surprise you?
My immediate reaction is yes, because London is one of the most diverse cities on Earth. It’s one of the most dynamic, lively and exciting places to be and it just seems to go completely against the grain of most people’s view of London.
We’re a very diverse city and there are communities within London that have views that aren’t as mainstream or as accepting as the majority.
This is one of the issues I think we have to overcome, not just as mayor, but collectively.
You don’t do that by bursting into people’s homes and changing their attitudes. You do it by setting an example. If you’re having an zero tolerance approach to anything that looks like it’s crossing the line, but above all its about making clear, London is what it is and these views are not acceptable.
Does that mean it’s more important then in a city like London to have inclusive sex education, compulsory in all London schools, so that all children know it’s okay to be gay, regardless of what their parents or religious leaders say?
I struggle with this issue.
On the one level, I want the outcome that good quality sex and relationship education provides for all the obvious reasons.
But on another level, I’m very strongly supportive of the government’s free schools agenda, which allows parents to set the ethos and the direction of schools. I think it’s the right policy.
I backed it very strongly in parliament, I backed it very strongly in my constituency.
I’m torn on the issue about mandating what schools would do because, for me, it goes against the grain and it’s something that I think the mayor – working with local authorities – should be able to identify and target areas and schools where that approach doesn’t work – as opposed to having a one size fits all approach.
If you had a more data-driven city (like New York) it would be easier for the mayor to work with local authorities and identify hot spots where the government policy isn’t working. I’d prefer that to a one size fits all approach, though I’m not saying the problem doesn’t exist.
Do you think that any school in London should teach that being gay will make you go to hell?
No, clearly not and for me that crosses a line.
I mean it’s not for me to accept or not, but I find it unacceptable that schools should be racially divisive, or religiously divisive or ethically divisive or sexually divisive. Anything that pips one part of the community against the other for me crosses the line.
So, it would be wrong to teach what’s in the Bible?
That’s not where we are.
I think people can hold their views, religious views or world views, if you’re a religious person that is something between you and God.
I don’t think it’s for you or me or law to interfere and regulate that set of beliefs, but I think where your beliefs begin to have an impact on wider society, I think it’s a different matter.
HIV figures in London are the highest in the UK, if you’re elected mayor what can we do to tackle it?
Looking at the figures there has been a spike and I don’t pretend like I know why that spike has happened, I’d like to understand and I have theories, but it’s very worrying that the spike has happened.
In terms of health, the mayor’s job is currently very limited, but there is a very strong public health remit.
So, the mayor doesn’t control the NHS, the hospitals, all that kind of thing. They can make promises about saving hospitals as my rival is doing, but they can’t do it. You can promise to try.
What you can do is public health. I’ve put in my action plan for London, which is cleaning our air, promoting outdoor activity and so on.
Also, on the public health strategy that the mayor is required by law to draw up, you, I will if elected mayor, place a very big emphasis on not just early detection of HIV but also prevention as well, through education. If we don’t do that and these trends continue, then we’re in real trouble because it’s already quite shocking.
I know that there is a concern given the pressures faced by local authorities, but equally it is down to them in my view, to decide how best to prioritise spending.
I don’t think it makes sense for any local authority to cut back on helping people achieve early detection of HIV.
It just seems incredibly short sighted and very irresponsible. I know that is what’s happening in some boroughs around London, but I hope that the government’s facilitation of early home testing will part compensate for that, but we don’t know.
On that note, would you be in favour of PrEP? A medication that you can take that can help to prevent you from catching HIV.
I can’t even answer that because I don’t know what the pros and cons of it could be.
From the basis of your question, it seems like a no-brainer, but I can’t agree to that without knowing more. Is there a downside?
The argument against it is that the people having the riskiest sex can’t be trusted to take medication. However the evidence shows that it has been effective in UK and US trials.
So, the argument really is about cost and being cost effective.
In purely mathematical terms it would make sense to say yes, just because the cost of treating someone with HIV purely in financial terms is very, very high
[At the request of Zac Goldsmith’s campaign team, the transcript of the PinkNews video is below].
Why should a PinkNews reader vote for you?
Because I can deliver. Because all the concerns that PinkNews readers have are the same as any other journal and that is that London is a great and prosperous and wonderful city, but that success hasn’t translated for everybody. We need a mayor who can protect it, protect that success and make it work for London.
My record shows that I can. When I make a promise I keep it.
Would you go to Pride, win or lose?
Yes, I will be at the next Pride. I’ll borrow Boris Johnson’s pink hat.
Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton?
I’m not a fan of Hillary Clinton, but I have to say Hillary Clinton.
Here’s a few terms – do you know what they mean? LGBT.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans.
Transgender man is a woman who is transitioning to being a man.
Pansexual, pansexual is someone who loves the world, surely? Is that right?
I’m afraid I don’t know what that is.
Asexual, that’s someone who uninterested in any kind of sexual relationships or activity
And would you like to be the mayor for everyone?
I would use the term pansexual here, if my understanding is correct! I would be the mayor for all of London.
London is a beautiful, big, diverse city and needs a mayor that can speak for everyone.
London’s mayoral and assembly elections take place on May 5.