Have you seen Zac Goldsmith’s Channel 4 News car-crash interview yet?

Phew! I’ve just finished watching Channel 4 News’s Jon Snow attempt to interview Tory MP for Richmond Park Zac Goldsmith about suggestions that he has serious questions to answer about the accuracy of his election expenses.

It’s true car-crash telly, with Zac Goldsmith spending the first seven minutes of the interview ranting against Channel 4 News in a way that will have had Tory HQ cringeing with embarrassment. You can watch the full 13-minute broadcast here:


(Also avalable on the Channel 4 News website here).

Channel 4 News has refuted Mr Goldsmith’s allegations with Jon Snow inviting him to take them up with OfCom:

“We refute any suggestion that Zac Goldsmith was targeted simply because he is a high profile figure. The questions we have raised relating to his expenses are entirely legitimate. The issues we found regarding Mr Goldsmith’s campaign expenses are materially different and of a different scale to those found in other returns we looked at.

“We informed Mr Goldsmith of our report last week and he was given ample opportunity to respond on the record to these questions. Channel 4 News stands fully behind its report which was rigorously researched. The investigation into campaign spending continues.”

Lib Dem Twitter reaction to the interview has not been kind to Zac:

  • @waddertron Watch the Zac Goldsmith interview on C4, its a master class in how not to do it.
  • @pimlicat Zac Goldsmith interview a bit car crash
  • @stevenlambert1 Well done @jonsnow on getting Zac Goldsmith to answer Qs. Btw the loaned jackets still have to be declared as in kind with notional value!
  • @jpshaddock Right now, Andy Coulson is watching Channel 4 News and facepalmming
  • @lloyd_harris watched Zac Goldsmith on C4 news failing to answer questions about his election exps – has he something to hide?
  • @colinross1975 Zac Goldsmith is doing very badly on Channel 4 News – attacking Jon Snow and not answering the accusations
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    75 Comments

    • Catherine Allinson 16th Jul '10 - 8:58pm

      Maybe we weren’t watching the same interview – I thought it was 1-0 to Goldsmith over the arrogance and complacency of Snow who is clearly too used to getting his own way. He certainly looked chastened and glad that Friday’s programme ends at 7.30pm. Your viewpoint would not of course be influenced by the fact that Goldsmith beat a LibDem in Richmond – never?

    • Andrea Gill 16th Jul '10 - 8:58pm

      I really don’t know how many local parties and campaigns can truly say they are whiter than white, regardless of his interview performance I don’t feel it is right to pre-judge on this or any other expenses case.

      I’d rather see someone win with an honest campaign – I haven’t followed this particular campaign – against one of our PPCs with some questionable accounting of election materials (and after this presidential Leaders Debate campaign who can criticise a more prominent PPC lending their face to the local election campaign?) than with a vicious smear campaign that attacks the other PPCs personally.

    • Wow amazing interview! Goldsmith is toast now. Failed to answer a single question and was on ropes. He surely has to go. A disgrace.

    • An absolute farce of an interview ….Zac Goldsmith must be hiding something and should be thrown out of parliament as soon as possible. Why on earth would any of the electorate think that a man worth over 100 million is in politics for the “people” surely just another self serving member of the big boys club who is about as distanced from the realities of life in this country as you could be.

    • kevin thorpe 16th Jul '10 - 9:24pm

      Zac Goldsmith is a rich, arrogant, posho and well and truly confirmed this ce soir. With any luck the rest this brood will crash and burn so completely as he did this evening (without taking the rest of the country with them!).

    • James Paterson 16th Jul '10 - 9:27pm

      I was astonished by the sheer unprofessionalism of Jon Snow. He was extremely aggressive and confrontational from the start and repeatedly talked over Zac Goldsmith, who seemed to have some pertinent points to make, especially about the way in which C4 News had presented this news story in the last few days. In my opinion, Jon Snow showed no interest at all in getting at the truth: he gave the impression that he’d already made up his mind about the facts of the case and was determined to present them in a distorted way to the viewers. That’s not the kind of news I want to watch and consequently I won’t be watching C4 News in future. C4 should consider retiring Jon Snow after this debacle.

    • I think we should be careful about criticising this too much. There was a very close battle in Richmond and I would be very surprised if every aspect of Susan Kramer’s spending would stand close scrutiny. Both candidates are said to have spent an awful lot of their own money in the couple of years leading up to the election. The rules appear very unclear about how this “long campaign” spending should be accounted for.

    • You must be kidding!! I know this is Lib Dem territory here so you will naturally sway against your partners in crime, the Conservatives, but Goldsmith had the high ground, John Snow crashed and burned – Goldsmith was well within the law, well within it. Nothing will happen to him. C4 trying some investigative journalism… leave it to the proper news channels.

    • Yes, because you not being arsed to look at anything beyond what the 3 users of lib dig send you is TOTALLY all the fault of the wimmin.

    • Oh my, we’re also having a gender debate here. I think I’ll leave the world of Lib Dem Lunacy and head back to the real world. Spend your time worrying about real issues. This is why you only get in to power by selling your souls.

    • George Potts 16th Jul '10 - 10:52pm

      i just watched this interview and am amazed that anyone could think anything other than that Jon Snow is an epic penis of gargantuan proportions. I say this having voted liberal democrat in every election since 1992. I have no tory axe to grind. I do however have Jon Snow axe to grind. Jon Snow has always been a smug self satisfied tosser and it pleases me enormously that he should be called out on this, I’m sorry that it’s Zac Goldsmith but so be it. I would much rather have seen a liberal democrat mp with some vim do this but sadly they don’t exist anymore. What is wrong with you people?

    • Speaking of Liberal tweets, KaschWilder isn’t really a Lib Dem any more… ish.

    • Apologies George Potts, I have no genuine political axe to grind, but this posting by Stephen Tall clearly does. It is tantamount to propaganda publishing. Clearly C4 were in the wrong. Good to see there is some common sense around here. Websites such as these rarely have an objective viewpoint, and some who read it will be fickle enough to believe it without really deducing their own opinion, just falling foul to blind party loyalty. These websites fuel it, which frustrates me.

    • Zac did himself no , his party & politicians in general no favours – unless you think that sort of behavior is okay – in which case you get the politics you deserve – shame – real shame.

    • Conservative 16th Jul '10 - 11:23pm

      well good to see the lib dem/conservative support is mutual. As can be expected I thought C4 were completel out of order on this one and it about time politcians stop being beaten up by the media – I am no fan of Goldsmith on most occasions but I was relatively pleased with him tonight – Snow clearly isn’t challenged enough on tv.

    • @Tris, off topic but you’re not “sausage Tris” from #benandarnie are you?

    • Are the local campaigns that were mentioned also being looked into? The guy’s a disgrace – overspending to such an extent is a very serious matter if that is what happened.

      The posterboards (expensive aren’t they at a fiver a time?) should have an apportionment of 20% not 50% as Zac Goldsmith is the national campaign – and really the vote conservative is basically the national campaign too (in the eyes of the electorate). As an agent I would have baulked at the idea of such a tactic. As for the jackets – they too had vote conservative on them (ie national campaign)

    • George – Jon is short for Jonathan, John is, as you know, its own name.

      Ryan Cullen – you are told by the Electoral Commission to declare those items which have actually been used. I had, as an agent, quite a lot of undelivered leaflets, and so didn’t declare them. I would have expected Zac’ s agent to do likewise, quite properly. I take a very keen anti-waste environmental line, but it is not always easy to budget absolutely accurately for these things

    • It’s simply wrong to say Goldsmith didn’t answer any questions. He addressed all of them in the last half of the interview. You might not agree with them, but he did.
      It’s incredibly hard for the interviewee to stand up to the interviewer in a case like this. And if Goldsmith honestly thought Channel 4 had lied about him then I thought he was pretty brave to try. Jon Snow is a bit of a self-righteous bully at times, and certainly has his own political agenda. I thought Goldsmith showed a lot of balls, and I admired him for it.

    • That was a very depressing interview. I wasn’t entirely convinced by Zac Goldsmith’s answers, particularly on the stakeboards, but I can’t help but credit him for standing up to Jon Snow, who either does owe an apology or, if he’s in the right, should be able to deal with the issue rather better and more rapidly. He’s been involved in enough interviews to know how these things work! It was fairly obvious that it was going to take up a lot of time if he didn’t control it and the time it did take up was, as he did appear to realise, not particularly interesting on a news programme.

      As others have said, it’s not a particularly big story. It almost certainly comes down to interpretation of electoral law. I’d say it’s a niche interest, at best, probably even amongst political types! If the major parties are issuing bad guidance to their candidates (and I don’t feel qualified to judge whether or not that is the case) then that is a story, but it’s not the story Channel 4 is running.

      It would have been nice to keep the Lib Dem presence in Richmond, but this doesn’t really call into question the legitimacy of his victory.

    • Ann Collins 17th Jul '10 - 3:04am

      I thought Goldsmith was shown for the aggressive little bully he is. Stabbing a pen at Snow and refusing to answer questions. It was quite obvious that Goldsmith thought that by attacking he could avoid answering questions. If this the the sort of person we have running the country then heaven help us all. The nasty party are back!

    • gwenhwyfaer 17th Jul '10 - 6:07am

      It would have been nice to keep the Lib Dem presence in Richmond, but this doesn’t really call into question the legitimacy of his victory.

      One thing that might have been missed is that Jon Snow mentioned they’d looked at 30 MPs, and Zac Goldsmith’s creative accounting was by far the worst example they’d found. Not surprising, either – if the figures they’d found were typical, Goldsmith had managed to find a way to spend ten times the amount that electoral rules permitted. That, in short, is tantamount to buying himself a Commons seat, and precisely what the rules were introduced to guard against; claiming it poses no challenge to his legitimacy is almost as odd as, I don’t know, claiming that cutting jobseekers’ benefits by 10% after a year in a climate where there are 5 jobseekers for every job is sharing the pain of the budget in a fair way…

    • Michael Seymour 17th Jul '10 - 7:46am

      I thoroughly enjoyed Jon Snow’s interview with Zac Goldsmith. Although I admire Jon Snow’s questioning most of the time, he is, in company with Jeremy Paxton, given to extremely bullying tactics at times.

      It was refreshing to have someone stand up to him and I applaud Zac Goldsmith for doing this.

    • Cameron will be relieved to be going on his exciting jaunt to see Obama’s house after Zac’s very public meltdown.

      It was truly embarrassing to see Goldsmith adopt the attitude of a petulant spoilt child by trying to run out the clock and talk about anything but the real subject at hand of his breaking election law.

      I fear only the very, very simple-minded could have possibly gleaned anything praiseworthy from Goldsmith’s ludicrous behaviour. It was an echo of some of the more notorious hate figures from the expenses scandal like Anthony Steen.

    • Goldsmith’s tactic was to be left with a couple of minutes at the end in which to answer briefly some of the questions that had been raised by the Anthony Barnett report for Channel 4 News the night before (which should not get overlooked, by the way) oh but look ‘time is up’ and he is left looking like he has so much more to say. Few viewers will have been fooled, however. The allotted interview time was clearly long enough for there to have been some fulsome answers and discussion, which posed a problem to Zac Goldsmith, yet the way in which he tried to handle his problem was to put in an ugly performance the like of which is very rare on TV. Well done, Channel 4 News for raising this important issue and standing up to the kind of bullying behaviour that will get plenty of attention and will have political consequences for those who just try to shrug it off.

    • I voted Lib Dem to rid politics of people like Zac Goldsmith !

    • Stuart – it’s not a niche interest at all. Making it difficult for a rich person to buy their way into politics is vital to our democracy.

      Of course there never can be a level playing field, but the purpose of the spending limit – to prevent one candidate using their financial advantage to blow the other out of the water – will be clear to anyone who engages now, whether or not they’d thought about it before. It’s odd that you would take the view that something is only news worthy if we already knew / cared about it en masse. I kind of thought the role of journalism was to bring to people’s attention potentially important things they didn’t know.

      Putting aside his general petulant-child impression, what alarmed me was that Zac clearly could not see that C4 News might actually have a point that this was in the public interest. He could have handled the interview so differently – especially if he thinks it’s the formula / protocol that’s wrong. And he would have come away as being someone who cares about democracy and not just his own reputation / power.

      I loved his 3 options at the end. Number 3 was my fave – that they’re all doing it and we need to re-run the general election. I suspect Nick and Dave (who I like to imagine watch telly together on a Friday night with a packet of chocolate hobnobs) may have been unimpressed by that suggestion.

    • It confirms my view of Goldsmith as an arrogant public school bully. However, although the degree of his creative accounting is quite extreme he is probably correct in suggesting that all candidates in contention in marginal seats have to massage their expenditure figures to get within the legal limits.

    • I’m delighted to see how many comments listed above criticise Jon Snow for his ridiculous bullying and totally confrontational and aggressive interviewing and reporting techniques. And it is amazing to read the completely biased Channel 4 Report of that interview. Zac G, did not rant, he kept his voice and demeanour on an even keel throughout the interview, whereas Jon Snow lost all credibility and was a total “”car crash:”” I doubt that CPHQ will be cringing, rather the reverse, Zac stood up very credibly to the bullying of JOn Snow, who like the similar leftie lovvie champagne socialist newsmedia rottweillers Jeremy Paxman, John Sospel and Andrew Marr have not conducted an unbiased, and totally slanted to their particular views interview for years.
      Where were these so called journalists through all the Brown years which have left this country in such an appalling mess, Did they ask the right questions, Did they expose the sham of the Brown Cabinet and its skulduggery. No, they did not! They pandered, they toadied, and they most certainly did not investigate or report, as they pretended, but merely flaunted their own biases and luvvie tendencies. Now Mandelson has splilt the beans , they all flock to comment, How Quaint. Hooray for Zac. And talking about expenses, How come Labour MP’s were inpower were able to vote themselves a so called “Communications Allowance”which was essentially used by them for Electioneering purposes. How much comment did that get from whiter than white Jon Snow! How much investigation did that get from the Bureau of Investigative Journalists!? Where were they? Talk about bias. Channel 4 loses all respect with such ridiculous tactics.

    • Sir Norfolk Passmore 17th Jul '10 - 10:15am

      The “you wanna watch it” bit near the end did have a touch of the Archer/Crick “you’ll see how tough I am” about it. This will probably peter out in truth, but Goldsmith is a rather extraordinary figure with a major persecution complex, and he’ll cause more embarrassment to CCHQ before he’s finished.

    • David Butler 17th Jul '10 - 10:37am

      It is a time-honoured technique for politicians of all parties, when they have tricky questions coming, to argue that first they have to get an apology for the way they were invited to appear. Even if Goldsmith has nothing to hide, by resorting to this long-discredited manoeuvre he gave the impression that he has. And I am fed up to the back teeth with hearing interviewers described as bullies when they won’t allow politicians to dodge questions. Bravo Snow!

    • It is unfortunate for Goldsmith that he spent so long trying to justify his position on the interview arrangements. He came across as a very smug and self-righteous person which will have lost him some votes. Either he does not understand that he has entered politics or else he has been advised that his case is so weak that he must avoid the interviewer getting to ask the questions.

      Looking beyond the surface gamesmanship in the interview and trying to identify the issues, it certainly does seem as if Goldsmith has some questioins to answer. Some of the points, such as the jackets without the logos can be re-used at other times, have some validity but why was he or someone stupid enough to buy them on the same invoice as the logos? Other points, such as the posters representing all the candidates, are such nonsense that any child could see through them immediately.

      He did himself no good in that interview even if he went away feeling virtuous about himself.

    • Paul McKeown 17th Jul '10 - 1:10pm

      @Bob
      “It was an echo of some of the more notorious hate figures from the expenses scandal like Anthony Steen.”

      I can only agree. The man has done himself no favours, even if it were to transpire that he had worked entirely within the rules, which prima facie seems unlikely to be the case. Can’t see the general public getting sufficiently bothered to want to recall him, though.

    • Having read the diversity of the comments submitted, the one over riding concern must be that a man of such education, upbringing and connection seemed unable to conduct himself in a structured or considered manner. My concern is that ZG is regarded as one of Cameron favorites and if this is the level of thinking and ability to debate in the conservative party, we the populace are in for an unnecessarily hard time. Seems that the likes of Gove, Lansley, Osborne et al have sat in their club chatting over how they can teach us all a lesson in sound economics. The fact they all had priveledged upbringings, money in the bank, which will not affect the amount they pay for services they get for nothing anyway, seems to escape them.

      ~What is of paramount concern is the Liberal Democrats have taken the likes of these ‘old boys’ as bedfellows for very little return or any real prospect of them adopting polcies which are sympathetic to working and non working families. Even Mr. Clegg begins to sound and look like them. Vince Cable is often less convincing now he has a coalition party line to tow.

      Thorpe, Grimmond, Steve Ross, Cyril Smijh must be turning right now. Steel, Ashdown and Hughes should be very concerned, very concerned. Zac Goldsmith is the norm in the Conservative Party. ‘Hey Ho, jolly hockeysticks old chap…see the oichs complaining again’.

      Re evaluate before it is too late before the title Liberal Democrat is synonimous with Tory and consigned to history for ever.

    • I must have been watching a different interview to you all, I think Goldsmith slapped Snow.

    • “You want to watch it!”

      The arrogance.

    • John Emerson 17th Jul '10 - 5:09pm

      So he spent the first nine minutes of the interview haranguing and calling the generally well-liked (especially by the Channel 4 News viewership) Jon Snow a liar, then when he finally moved on to the substance, his answer to all the questions involving the expenses was; it wasn’t my fault, it was the system which made me do it, beside everyone else does it too. Where have we heard that before?

      Great Job Zac!

    • Sir James… you have nothing to be smug about … your attempt to buy the British political system has failed.
      David Mellor (Election Night, 1997)

      It seems Zac succeeded where his father failed

    • I think it now falls to Goldmsith to start a fight to cut out the cancer of bent and twisted journalism in our country with the simple sword of truth and the trusty shield of British fair play..

    • @Paul McKeown
      “Can’t see the general public getting sufficiently bothered to want to recall him, though.”

      Indeed no, however he is far from in the clear and would do well to rember this episode from Paraliamentary history involving Labour MP Fiona Jones.

      “After complaints by the Liberal Democrats, the police launched an investigation into her spending at the 1997 election campaign. Although submitting election expenses within the permitted maximum, she was charged with her agent Des Whicher with having fraudulently omitted to declare spending which would have taken her well over it. Although most of the charges collapsed and were withdrawn by the trial Judge, a dispute over whether the rent for a campaign office used also as party headquarters was left to the Jury. The two were convicted on 19 March 1999 of “corrupt practices”, under section 82(6) of the Representation of the People Act 1983 and she was sentenced to 100 hours’ community service. Gill Dawn, a prominent local councillor, gave evidence against her. Much was made at the time that Dawn had been her rival for the Labour Party candidacy. On the nomination from the Newark Branch Labour Party, Dawn came in a poor fourth, and withdrew from the contest at that stage. The runner up, Nick Palmer went on to win the Labour Party candidacy for the Broxtowe constituency. As a result of the conviction, Jones was disqualified from the House of Commons.”

      It is to the Liberal Democrats credit that they have been free of the arrogant boorish behaviour Goldsmith typifies. When Clegg was ambushed by Andrew Neil on expenses he answered calmly, coherently and even with good humour. Not so the new model Tory Party. Worryingly Goldsmith is a prime example of the mindset of Cameron’s inner circle. Privileged, arrogant, full of an unwarranted sense of entitlement and completely out of touch with the public.

      Goldsmith is a disgrace to those who work so hard at the coal face of Politics to banish the demons of the expenses scandals and to improve the standing of Politics and Politicians in general.

    • Zac spent the first half of a live interview complaining that he hadn’t been given a live interview. He spent the second half demonstrating a lack of awareness of electoral law which isn’t necessarily surprising in “legal necessities” (candidates), but should have been crash-course rectified before he went on air – his defence that ‘everyone was doing it’ takes us back to the worst of the expenses scandal, and is simply untrue, that’s a world worse than any others I’ve seen.

      The idea that Jon Snow was in any way combative, or abusive is risible – he was trying to get Goldsmith to answer questions which Goldsmith said he wanted to answer, but when given the opportunity zoomed off to rant about not… being allowed to answer…. it was bizarre.

    • Ian Sanderson 18th Jul '10 - 3:37pm

      I came away with the impression that Zac had a game plan to waste so much time on the details of setting up the interview, that there would be little time to discuss the questions it was supposed to deal with.
      He has the difficulty that he is in the middle of a legal investigation, which could mean that his answers need to be very guarded – better to leave no time for them.
      His going on the attack from the beginning was a tactic also used by his late father, Sir James. David Dimbleby has said that he was ambushed by Sir Jams when doing a ?Panorama? interview on the complex Goldsmith company empire. He found that Goldsmith was going on the attack by diverting the discussion to the Dimbleby family publishing empire (in Richmond!), about which he had taken the pains to be very well briefed.
      Seems like Zac is a small chip off the old block!

    • gwenhwyfaer 18th Jul '10 - 5:32pm

      Seems like Zac is a small chip off the old block!

      And chips are always better fried…

    • i think Zac Goldsmith needs to talk to his PR team. The problem with television is that even genuine anger can be misconstrune. It doesn’t look nice and makes people feel uncomfortable, particularly in a 2-way discussion. Zac may have had genuine points to make about C4’s handling but at the end of the day his tactic was poor.

      And discussion about Jon Snow doesn’t matter much because he is not the politician. Goldsmith’s took 7 minutes to get to the point and when he got there he couldn’t answer a single question straight. mayve because he was in such a tizzy

    • Arrogant, ignorant, evasive and bullying. Is this representative of the coalition? Unfortunately, it looks increasingly as if it is.
      His apparent determination to refuse to answer the specific points suggests that he has something to hide.

    • The point being Chris that this isn’t some technicality that can be brushed aside with expenses excuses like “everyone else does it” or “it wasn’t me it was the system”.

      You breach these Laws with enough force and you will regret it however rich you are.

      The sums of money ‘creatively accounted’ by the ex non-dom Goldsmith are vastly greater than the £11,000 limit by several multiples. Not just a few pounds over. So a Law which was specifically created to stop the rich unfairly buying a seat would seem to have to be enforced in this case if they are still to mean anything.

      Else all the words about ‘new politics’ will be just a hollow soundbite.

    • Interesting to contrast the Standard reporting ‘[Goldsmith insisted] his agent was “scrupulous” in completing a declaration’ with the sloppy, hardly understandable, rationale presented in the return for charging £121.45 to the short campaign for the 100 large “Zac Goldsmith” boards costing £1388.85:

      “100 boards divided between 2 elections = £694.42 per campaign divided between local council = 347.10/100 = £3.47 X – 70 used = £242.90 35 for the long period = 121.45

      Cost included in election expenses return

      £121.45″

      They don’t even seem to have the maths right, before you wonder why the local council election would want “Zac Goldsmith” boards! Or what the “2 elections” are.

      (NB ordered 12/4/2010, invoiced 19/4/2010, stradling short campaign starting – so great efficiency to use 70% of the boards in the long campaign)

    • David Butler 20th Jul '10 - 11:25am

      The problem is a compound one. Goldsmith seems to have little respect for the electoral law, giving fatuous explanations and claiming that all candidates cut corners. But the overall picture is disturbing too. The Tories explicitly denied any intention of a major overhaul of the NHS, but are now violating that pledge, embarked on one. The educational reforms are being hustled through parliament without debate, after even the basic figures were misreported. Coalition spokespersons continually hark on about overspending by the previous regime, even though Cameron’s policy right up to the financial crisis was to match Labour spending plans.

      All in all it looks like an administration that’s already lost its grip.

    • It would seem in this case that the election agent has at the very least been very sloppy – and I do have some sympathy for Mr Goldsmith in that he as a candidate is having to defend decisions made by his agent when neither he (nor, it would seem, his agent) appears to understand precisely the rules under which those decisions were made.

      You could say that he should have asked his agent much more searching question when signing off the election return – but I think more broadly this does show why we need much much clearer and easier to understand guidance about what you are supposed to declare and how you are supposed to account for it. Electoral Commission – can we please have a single set of regulations explaining how exactly we are meant to fill these forms in, so we can actually get the administration of this right and separate the cheats from the simply bewildered?

    • Very interesting example of how Tory MPs are taught to avoid answering difficult questions in an interview: prevaricate, change the point, accuse the interviewer of lying, use attack as a form of defence. I’ve seen exactly the same technique used by other Tory MPs when facing difficult questions. It’s clearly part of the training needed to be a first-rate Tory MP.

    • Martin Woodcock,

      At least Lib Dem MPs refused to lick Cheney’s boots.

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