You might think that there is nothing surprising about the heir to James Goldsmith’s £300 million fortune saying he would stand for the Conservative Party in the next general election. But Zac Goldsmith has been deeply involved in the Green movement for the last decade.
Other leading Greens who took jobs as industry spokesmen and women, like Des Wilson, Jonathan Porritt, Sara Parkin and Peter Melchett, have been roundly attacked as sell-outs and ‘greenwashers’. Zac Goldsmith’s vow to fight the Richmond Upon Thames seat for David Cameron’s new model Tories, on the other hand, has drawn almost no criticism at all from his former Green pals.
The easy ride that Goldsmith got from the Greens over his turning blue is not so hard to understand when you look at the payments that his JMG Foundation has made to the many environmental and advocacy groups over the years: Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, the Soil Association, Sustain and the Green Alliance have all taken JMG money.
Zac’s brother Ben who helps him run the JMG Foundation, says that the foundation ‘does not have charitable status’, but ‘specialises in environmental grant-making’:
this often leads us to support quite spiky work – campaigning and hard-hitting advocacy – which prompts governments or business to move further, and faster, towards a truly sustainable course.
Jon Cracknell and Heather Godwin, who both ‘work for the family of the late Sir James Goldsmith’ managing the JMG Foundation and the Ecology Trust wrote a report Where The Green Grants Went that identified a gap in the market. According to Where The Green Grants Went lots of money went to conservation project, but not enough to advocacy groups dealing with climate change. That is an omission that Zac Goldsmith has put right, by using JMG funds to buy into these campaigns.
Some of the Green activists who might have been expected to warn against the dangers of being bought up by the millionaire Zac Goldsmith are those who have dedicated themselves to exposing ‘Greenwashing’ and Spin.
The Spinwatch website run by David Miller of Strathclyde University, and Claire Robinson (who looks after the ‘spin-profiles’ section of their website) have dedicated themselves to uncovering the big business charlatans who dress green to fool the public. But there is a big gap in Spinwatch’s encyclopedia of Spin. Where is the entry for the millionaire Zac Goldsmith? Where is the exposure of the Tory-led JMG Foundation, and its many contributions to green groups? There is none, because Spinwatch is one of those green groups taking the Goldsmith shilling.
Claire Robinson is no stranger to Goldsmith’s largesse. Before working for Spinwatch, she worked for the Ecologist magazine (after a stint at Horse & Rider). She also worked on another Goldsmith-funded operation ‘GMWatch’ with Jonathan Matthews. Another JMG funded ‘spinwatch’ off-shoot, ‘nuclearspin’ was criticised for attacking pro-nuclear Labour MPs, but not their Tory counterparts ‘Might this by any chance be related to the fact that the JMG Foundation was created by Zak Goldsmith, David Cameron’s “green guru”?’ asked Private Eye (26 May 2006).
Maybe Guardian columnist and Green star George Monbiot would have something to say about the tax-dodging millionaire Tory? What about the fact that candidate Zac Goldsmith has had himself classed as a Non-Domicile – despite owning a farm in Devon and standing for the UK Parliament – so that he does not have to pay tax. Certainly Monbiot thinks that ‘the Conservative Party’s most persistent embarassment is the hazy tax status of its deputy chairman, Lord Ashcroft’, but for some reason non-domicile Tory candidate Zac Goldsmith is never criticised in the many acres of newsprint of Monbiot’s columns.
Maybe it is unfair to say that Zac Goldsmith bought the Green movement – since it has been in his family for two generations, you might say he inherited it, along with daddy’s millions. Zac’s uncle Teddy founded the Ecologist magazine back in 1970 and after spending some time in an Ashram in Rajahstan, and at Teddy’s International Society for Ecology and Culture in Ladakh, Zac took over in 1998.
Still, that only makes Zac’s embrace of the Conservative Party look all the more strange. After all, his father James Goldsmith fought against the Conservative Party, standing as an anti-European Union candidate against the Tories’ disgraced cabinet minister David Mellor (a ranting Goldsmith rattled Mellor at the election count). To understand why Zac’s change of heart is not such a surprise, you have to understand the meeting point between deep green and deep blue. In his book The Constant Economy, Zac Goldsmith repeats the same philosophy that his uncle first popularised of a ‘steady state’, no growth, economy. Only a millimetre below the surface is a fierce hatred of modern society and the mass of people that it gathers.
Goldsmith economic theory fits Goldsmith economic practice. Sir James made his money by breaking up companies to raid their assets. His son makes his out of the gaming industry. Mass production is an anathema to them – they make their money by breaking things up, or transferring wealth from gamblers’ pockets to their own (and remember, the house always wins).
Before getting his seat in parliament, Zac Goldsmith had to be selected by the Tories. True to form, he donated £264,000 to help fund a campaign office, and has made contributions to the party just under the threshold of £40,000 himself, as has his brother and sister in law. David Cameron’s Tory Party is not only grateful for Goldsmith’s cash. His green credentials have made their tired brand look a bit special again. Happily, Goldsmith is funding the green ideas that in the election will cost their worn-out Labour rivals radical votes. There is no danger that the Green Party will take any votes from Goldsmith though: Richmond and Twickenham is not on the top of the party’s campaigning.
Now that Zac is getting into bed with David, where will the Green groups get their money? Luckily for Spinwatch, and others, another foundation has stepped in to fill any shortfall in their income. The Isvara Foundation (Isvara is Hindu for ‘believing in’) has been very generous. Unfortunately, the Isvara Foundation is not listed at Companies House or the Charity Commission, and does not reply to emails, so we cannot say who is behind it, other than that its website is run by Peter Taylor of the World Development Movement.