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Oh Snap

Zac Goldsmith: Failure's New Posterboy

What sort of masochist sets himself up to be rejected by voters for the third time in a year?
Zac Goldsmith the night he lost the Richmond by-election (Yui Mok/PA Wire/PA Images)

So Zac is to stand again in Richmond. Well, someone has to. And it might as well be a man who nodded-through a toxic mayoral campaign strategy, left his own party, staged a by-election for reasons more obscure than the Schleswig-Holstein Question, was hit by his own car hours before his by-election hustings and lost in one of the most momentous swings of modern times to Sarah Olney, mightn't it?

But really, what sort of masochist sets himself up to be rejected by voters for the third time in a year?


The question with Zac Goldsmith is no longer one of politics, its one of psychology. The self-destructive instinct is an undertow of all humanity. Freud called the Death Drive "an urge in organic life to restore an earlier state of things".

In Zac, it seems particularly strong, a man capable of hypnotic fuckuppery. What's eating him? He had a face like pallid cheese every time he took to the stump against Sadiq Khan – a sense that he'd already died and no one had told him. Yet rather than change tack, onward he rode in his own personal Charge of the Light Brigade, rehashing the same dismal lines Lynton Crosby had fed him, drawn along as though by rails.

Vertigo isn't the fear of falling, it's a terror of your innate desire to fall. Could it be that he's flirting with his fall? That bits of his psyche oblique to us all are pushing him into its vortex? The "getting run over by your own car thing"… I can only think of Brian Harvey and his baked potatoes. Men who don't in some obscure way crave their own obliteration aren't run over by their own cars.

Zac is very rich – about £200 million depending on how you slice it. He has risen without a trace, his only other job being when his uncle made him editor of The Ecologist magazine. Faced with that gilded cage, it would be very plausible that he'd develop an appetite for self-destruction somewhere in his forties.

The other idea is simpler. It's that there's a sheer intellectual laziness at the heart of what he thinks. He's the guy who all his friends say is actually a really nice guy, and much like Jeremy Corbyn, his positions suffer from a vain, schmuck-ish inflexibility. He'll do what Lynton Crosby says, then he'll hold a bizarro by-election because he is "keeping his word", and then wonder why nice guys finish last. It's the Cameron-era sense of politics as one big game – a theatre-piece where the chosen ones can act out their chosen masques before the world. It's the essential un-seriousness of the seriously narcissistic, the Dunning-Kruger effect of second-class minds who live in a reality that keeps telling them they are the first class.

Well I'd like to think more charitably of Zac than that.

When he lost his by-election late last year, Zac's 3AM speech to the electors of Richmond was gracious, humane, proud and unbowed. It was every Love Actually ideal of the English gentleman, the sort of off-the-cuff soliloquy that showed exactly why CCHQ had demonstrated so much faith in the guy down the years anyway. Maybe it's just a very simple Euro '96 attachment to the romance of losing that gets Zac fired up. Come June, we will all be teary-eyed on the bleachers as he racks up his next golden duck. A magnificent achievement.