London mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith did not tell the truth about his relationship with a man who was convicted in the US for supporting terrorist activity, according to Politics.co.uk.
In a head-to-head debate between Goldsmith and Labour candidate Sadiq Khan which Business Insider attended last week, Goldsmith accused Khan of “giving cover” to Babar Ahmad and said the Tooting MP had supported a campaign against him being extradited to the US. Ahmad is a British citizen
Ahmad is a British citizen who was eventually jailed in the US in 2012 for giving material support to the Taliban.
In the same debate, which was hosted by City AM, Goldsmith said Khan’s alleged ties with Ahmad were a “worry,” and described the Labour candidate’s claim that he too had campaigned on behalf of Ahmad as an “extraordinary” thing to suggest. Crucially, the Conservative MP distanced himself from Khan’s claim, and said he hadn’t heard of Ahmad until “quite recently.”
However, Politics.co.uk claims that not only did Goldsmith know Ahmad for years, but “repeatedly lobbied” MPs on behalf of campaigners who were trying to block his extradition. The article published on Friday contains a clip of the MP for Richmond Park speaking about Babar Ahmad at an anti-extradition meeting in parliament held four years ago, in which he says he had been “chewed up” by the UK’s US extradition arrangements. Goldsmith did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.
He also said:
Babar Ahmad is a story that has caught people’s imagination. I have been bombarded with letters from my local constituents. I’ve lost track of how many. I’ve had so many letters [about Ahmad’s case].
It’s odd that Goldsmith claimed in last week’s mayoral debate that he hadn’t heard of Ahmad until “recently,” given that according to this footage recorded in parliament in 2012, he has been aware of him and his case for at least four years. Here is the clip:
Furthermore, Politics.co.uk says it has obtained correspondence which shows Goldsmith sent letters to two government ministers between 2010 and 2012 about Ahmad, and lobbied ministers about the case a whole six years ago. In an email allegedly sent in 2012 to one of his constituents, Goldsmith said:
It seems bizarre that we cannot get rid of people like Abu Qatada, but cannot protect others. I have raised the issue of our extradition arrangement with the US, in Parliament, and in letters with Ministers and will continue to pursue this.
Politics.co.uk also says Goldsmith — who according to polls recently published by ComRes and Opinium is unlikely to become London’s next mayor — wrote to former counter-terrorism minister Baroness Neville-Jones in 2010 about the campaign to prevent Ahmad’s extradition to the US. Neville-Jones told Goldsmith that it would be “wholly inappropriate” to delay Ahmad’s extradition.
A constituent who spoke to Politics.co.uk said that he was surprised to hear Goldsmith saying he doesn’t know Ahmad, given his involvement in the campaign which allegedly stretches back many years. The constituent — who said they want to remain unnamed — told Politics.co.uk that the MP used to visit his local mosque in southwest London on a regular basis, and had built up positive relations with the local Muslim community.
Goldsmith’s popularity with London Muslims isn’t exactly sky-high right now, though.
The accusations he has made about Khan and his links to religious extremists have attracted criticism from politicians like Labour MP Yvette Cooper who described his campaign as a “full blown racist stream.” The perception that his campaign has racist streaks could explain why a ComRes survey published last week suggested that Khan was enjoying much higher ratings among the black, Asian, and minority ethnic voters.