There’s a video of Zac Goldsmith doing the rounds, where he claims to be ‘a Bollywood fan’ and then fails to name a single Bollywood film or actor that he likes. As I remarked on Twitter yesterday, his floundering interview was evocative of the Sarah Palin calamity in 2008 when she could not think of a single newspaper or magazine that she read regularly. Thanks to Sunny Hundal for providing this illustration.
— Sunny Hundal (@sunny_hundal) May 3, 2016
Its embarassing for Zac Goldsmith and his campaign team that he was not prepared to answer the question. Perhaps his advisors did not expect him to tell such a silly, pandering lie.
This sort of mistake has come about and been ridiculed because it is emblematic of Goldsmiths under-prepared, lacklustre candidacy. In everyday life, Mr Goldsmith is probably used to getting away with such throwaway falsehoods. I guess we’ve all claimed to have seen a film, read a book or liked music that we don’t actually know much about.
But political bullshitting is an entirely different mode of discourse. Its one thing to make a promise that you can later wriggle out of. It is another to make silly assertions that can be easily fact-checked or disproven. Alongside the Bollywood embarrassment, Goldsmith has also been caught out in other avoidable lies, related to branding a Tooting Imam (and by extension, Sadiq Khan) as an extremist. Such lies suggest that Goldsmith sees the entire Mayoral contest as a simple popularity contest, vote-winning for its own sake, rather than a chance to achieve something for London. Candidates with solid ideas for running our capital city to not get bogged down in this sort of nonsense.
Political pandering of the ‘I’m a Bollywood fan’ variety is particularly irritating because it is so unnecessary. Voters know that politicians are a weird, atypical bunch. We are not necessarily looking for someone who exactly shares our cultural interests but rather that someone who respects those interests. Goldsmith did not need to claim to be a Bollywood fan. He could just have said that Bollywood was culturally and economically important to London and the UK. For a Tory who supports the insular Brexit campaign, this would have been an interesting and notewoethy thing to say, and would have caused actual Bollywood fans (who come mainly but not exclusively from the British-Indian community) something to think on. He didn’t need to lie. And the fact that he did shows poor judgement and lack of self-confidence.