Zac Goldsmith, the Conservative candidate to be the next mayor of London, has pledged to protect the capital’s Jewish community if he is elected next month.
Ahead of tomorrow's London Jewish Forum hustings event with candidates from all the major parties, Mr Goldsmith said he understood British Jews’ concerns on issues including security, but shied away from supporting calls for armed guards at schools and synagogues.
Following a tour of Stamford Hill’s strictly Orthodox community today, during which he met rabbis and community leaders, Mr Goldsmith visited the JC office in Golders Green.
He said: “The concerns that have come up in every meeting I’ve had – whether tiny in people’s homes, or public meetings, or at events – security obviously is the main issue that comes up every time, hate crime comes up and Israel comes up as an issue often.
“Those people want to know that the next mayor of London is going to build on the relationship between London and Tel Aviv… they want to know City Hall will not become a place where boycott, divestment and sanctions gains legitimacy. That’s a concern people have. It’s raised all the time.
“I’d say my record on these issues is entirely consistent and constant and I think that matters, you can’t ride two horses in politics.”
Labour candidate Sadiq Khan was last month forced to explain why he had lobbied for sanctions against Israel before changing his stance to oppose boycotts of the country .
“In politics you can’t escape your record,” Mr Goldsmith said.
It was important that the community could trust his judgment on security, he said. Mr Khan, his leading opponent, could not give such an assurance, the Tory MP claimed.
“I can keep London safe. I know he can’t, because he won’t talk to government… I don’t think he can be an effective mayor because he’s just too partisan. He doesn’t speak to people outside his own political party and he never has.
“I tried working with him on one or two issues and it was impossible. He’s just not somebody who’s comfortable outside of his own box. You cannot be a good mayor if you’re not willing to talk, not willing to build bridges.”
Mr Goldsmith said his crime manifesto, to be launched on Wednesday, would make clear that his leading priority as mayor would be to tackle hate crime.
“We have to take a zero tolerance approach to hate crimes of any sort in the capital,” he said.
But while the community could “always count on the security measures that they need to stay safe”, the MP for Richmond Park and North Kingston said he would not back a “militarised” solution.
“The Met has asked for permission to double the number of armed response officers who are able to react to incidents, I very strongly support that. I don’t want us to get to a point where militarisation of the police is the norm. That is just too big a step for us and it’s not something that I think most people would welcome.”
Jewish schools and synagogues that requested additional security measures should receive that help, he added.
Mr Goldsmith is also due to speak at an event at Hendon United Synagogue on April 17.