Zac Goldsmith: I am not too rich to be mayor

Zac Goldsmith has insisted he is not too rich to be mayor of London.

Zac Goldsmith admitted today that he needed to "close the gap" between him and Sadiq Khan who is leading the polls

In an interview with Christian Today the multi-millionaire Tory hopeful said he did not think his wealthy background precluded him from relating to Londoners from poorer boroughs.

"In order to be able to help people you need to be able to empathise, you have to care and you have got to be able to solve their problem," he told Christian Today. "I don't think you have to have a direct experience of each of those problems to help people."

Goldsmith, who has been MP for Richmond Park and North Kingston since 2010 and is now the Conservative candidate to be Mayor of London, is the beneficiary of a trust fund worth an estimated £300 million. He is the son of tycoon and politician Sir James Goldsmith and went to four public schools during his education, including Eton College where he was expelled for possessing cannabis.

However the environmentalist campaigner said it didn't matter what his background was as long as he could empathise with and solve the issues Londoners face.

"As long as you care about problems and want to tackle injustices and are able to solve those problems then you can be a good politician and a good representative," he said.

"That is what I have always tried to do."

Faith communities in London have grown significantly since 2005 with most of the numbers coming from black majority Pentecostal churches in poorer boroughs of London.

Speaking of his own faith, Goldsmith said he did not "practise religion in a formal sense" but promised to work "very closely" with faith groups and communities.

"My family have influences from all over the place," he said. "My father's side is Jewish and my mother's side is Christian. I suppose I was brought up with a mix of everything."

He added: "If I had to reduce my own faith to a soundbite then I would say I have a deep reverence for the magic of the natural world. That has guided me through my career and through my life."

Goldsmith formally launched his campaign last week with plans to double house building to 50,000 a year by 2020.

Goldsmith, who famously had a spectacular bust-up on-air with Jon Snow, has become more softly spoken over his years as an MP. But he remains a fierce activist. He has campaigned vigorously on environmental issues and fought against his own party on the public's ability to 'recall' their MP for wrongdoing.

"I have been a pain in the backside as far as the government are concerned," he admitted to Christian Today. But now he is trying to turn his rebellious and independent parliamentary history to his advantage.

"An effective mayor must be willing to stand up to the government when they get it wrong," he said. "But more importantly they must be able to get a good deal from government," he said in a clear jibe against Labour rival Sadiq Khan.

Goldsmith is trailing Khan by up to ten points in the latest polls and a number of senior Conservative figures have criticised him for a lack of energy in his campaign. After a delayed start, the Richmond MP has finally launched his campaign focusing on housing, the environment, crime and transport with a strong focus on the night tube. He added he would be "totally prepared" to work with faith groups such as Patrick Regan's XLP in "tackling the root causes of crime".

However he defended the government's plan to allow Ofsted inspections into extra-curricular settings including churches where children receive more than 6-8 hours teaching a week as a "necessary policy".

"It's a very simple policy and I don't think you can argue with it," he said.

"But you can't have a policy like that which only targets one community. Extremism doesn't just exist in one community. There are particular communities which have particular problems at the moment but it is not an absolute.

"So I think the policy of requiring all educational centres outside of school to register is probably the right one.

"But as with all these policies there is capacity for it to be abused and our job is to make sure that doesn't happen."