Zac Goldsmith expected to stand for London mayor
Zac Goldsmith will "probably" stand for London mayor and could announce his candidacy within weeks, friends of the Conservative MP have told Politics.co.uk.
Odds of Goldsmith being the Conservative candidate next year have shortened dramatically in recent days after a number of large bets were placed on his candidacy.
He is coming under growing pressure to stand, following the Conservatives' surprise election victory and his own strong performance last month.
Goldsmith increased his majority from 4,000 to 23,000 in his Richmond Park seat.
One Conservative friend and supporter of Goldsmith told Politics.co.uk they now strongly expected him to run.
"He's beyond considering it. Things are being put in place. There are people ready to be part of his campaign. Things will start to move soon."
Goldsmith has repeatedly indicated he has his "hands full" as MP, and has told friends that he would prefer to wait until 2020 before standing.
However, figures including the current mayor Boris Johnson and former Tory mayoral candidate Steve Norris have been urging him to reconsider.
"He's under enormous pressure to do it because he could win and would be a fantastic candidate," one senior London Tory told Politics.co.uk
"We can beat Sadiq [Khan]. Khan is quite a divisive figure.
"Tessa [Jowell] would be more difficult, she is a unifier. But she has been around a long time. Zac is a much more fresh and exciting candidate."
Until recently many senior Labour figures had assumed next year's mayoral election was "in the bag" for the party. However fears of a Goldsmith run have been rising in the Labour party in recent weeks.
"Zac Goldsmith now [favourite] to be Tory mayoral candidate," Labour mayoral hopeful David Lammy tweeted earlier this week. "He has broad appeal across London. To win, Labour needs a candidate who has the same."
Zac Goldsmith now fav. to be Tory mayoral candidate. He has broad appeal across London. To win, Labour needs a candidate who has the same.
— David Lammy (@DavidLammy) June 3, 2015
Labour's Jon Cruddas told the Evening Standard: "The Tories are going to throw up a challenging candidate.
"They've got a real buzz about them at present which we cannot underestimate. Given what happened in May we cannot take anything for granted in any election we are in."
Goldsmith's support among liberal and left wing voters is worrying figures in the party.
"Zac Goldsmith… is without question the greatest potential obstacle to Labour winning City Hall," the Labour leader of Haringey council, Claire Kober, wrote this week.
"I fear his appeal is likely to stretch beyond west London and that he will pick up Liberal Democrat and Green second preferences across the capital."
Green peer and London Assembly Member Jenny Jones said last month the party would consider giving their second preferences to Goldsmith because of his green credentials.
"Greens would usually vote Labour in a second vote in an election like the London mayoralty. But if Zac Goldsmith is standing, it's a different scenario. Many of us very much like that he comes across as very green and committed and passionate."
One potential obstacle to a Goldsmith run would be if the government decides to expand Heathrow. Goldsmith has previously said he would refuse to either serve or stand as a Conservative politician if the government gave Heathrow expansion the go-ahead.
However, this fact, along with Boris Johnson's continued opposition to expansion at Heathrow, has convinced some in the party that the government are more likely to seek to expand Gatwick instead.
So far only three candidates have put themselves forward to be the Tory candidate, none of whom are household names.
Boris Johnson's policing deputy, Stephen Greenhalgh, launched his campaign to be mayor last year, followed by millionaire businessman Ivan Massow. The leader of the London Assembly Tories, Andrew Boff, also plans to stand.
Transport for London board member and Bloomberg executive Michael Liebreich has told friends he is also seriously considering standing, but has indicated that he would back Goldmsith instead if he decides to run. Other figures considering a run include Conservative MEP Syed Kamall and recently ousted London Tory MP Nick de Bois.