UK Politics

Zac Goldsmith accuses Sadiq Khan of 'playing race card'

Zac Goldsmith
Image caption Zac Goldsmith said his Labour rival was 'playing with fire'

Zac Goldsmith has accused his Labour rival to be London mayor Sadiq Khan of "playing the race card".

The Tory MP was reacting to claims he had tried to make an issue of Mr Khan's Muslim faith by describing him in a leaflet as "radical and divisive".

Mr Goldsmith said he had been referring to the "extraordinarily radical" changes that have happened to Labour under Jeremy Corbyn.

Mr Khan accused his Tory rival of "divisive dog whistle" politics.

Mr Goldsmith said Mr Khan had nominated Mr Corbyn for the Labour leadership and had been selected as the party's mayoral candidate by the "same voters" - and had been part of the same "radical process".

'Playing with fire'

"If I cannot use the term radical to describe what has happened to the Labour Party... then I don't know when I would be able to use the term," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

He added: "I think he is playing with fire. I don't think there is anything more divisive than playing the race card, when, clearly and unambiguously, it does not apply.

"It 's very obvious that what I was referring to when I described him as a radical candidate as part of a radical process that has enveloped the Labour Party and taken our politics in an extraordinary direction."

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Sadiq Khan said Mr Goldsmith had 'never had a proper job'

But Mr Khan's team hit back by accusing the Conservative candidate of "dog whistle" politics - sending coded racist messages to voters.

A spokesman said: "It was the Goldsmith campaign which put out the infamous dog-whistle leaflet branding Sadiq as 'radical' just because he happens to be a Muslim.

"And it was Goldsmith's campaign which had to launch an investigation after alleged racist remarks from a Tory canvasser to a voter.

"Their campaign is already so desperate.... they simply have no answers to the challenges London faces like fixing the housing crisis and keeping fares down."

'Proper job'

Mr Khan insisted an interview with Today on Monday that he would be "my own man" if he wins the race to succeed Boris Johnson in May - and the contest would not be decided by Jeremy Corbyn's policies.

The Tooting MP, a former lawyer and the son of a bus driver, said he would not attack Mr Goldsmith over his background as the son of billionaire financier Sir James Goldsmith, but said voters should consider whether they wanted a mayor whose only previous "proper job" was as editor of The Ecologist magazine, founded by his uncle, Edward Goldsmith.

He said: "London is one of the leading global commercial cities in the world, so I ask the question 'Do you want as Mayor of London ... someone who has never had a proper job, someone whose only job was one given you by your uncle to run his niche magazine?"'