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15 December 2009 by Zac Goldsmith

Zac answers Lib Dem smears

As a challenger in a marginal Lib-Dem seat, I have become the target of an extraordinary month-long smear campaign. I am pleased to put the record straight.

The latest claim is that Iím trying to buy this seat with a donation of £250,000. In fact I have merely registered the notional use of my office and staff over nearly three years. Itís not a transfer of cash. I have fewer paid helpers than Susan Kramer MP, and I suspect my campaign costs less than hers.

More seriously, the Lib Dems claimed that I have saved £600,000 in taxes per year as a result of my previous non-dom status. The figure is so many miles away from being true that itís hard to know how to respond. By making these extreme claims, they hope Iíll feel compelled to allow them to audit my accounts. But that is something that no candidate or MP has ever done.

I repeat that I have always chosen to be tax resident in the UK. †Virtually every penny of my income comes to the UK where I have always paid the full 40% rate of tax on it. And to be absolutely clear, my decision to relinquish non-dom status happened before being approached by any newspaper, and owed nothing to any outside pressure from anywhere or anyone. All of this has been confirmed by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The Lib Dems have also claimed that trust ownership of my home leaves the taxman short. This makes no sense. When a personís primary home is sold, there is no Capital Gains Tax to pay. Not so the trust-owned home I occupy if it is sold for a gain. The taxman will therefore benefit from these arrangements.

With a hungry media always on the lookout for headlines, the Lib Dems were able to cause a forest fire with their smears, and it was only after the dust settled that the press began issuing their corrections and apologies. First the Guardian printed an unsolicited apology, and then others followed.

But it is the implication in the Lib Dem smears Ė that I have somehow feathered my own nest Ė that I find most offensive. If I had any interest in hoarding money, why would my biggest expenditure be donations to charities and environmental causes I believe in?

Giving people an honest election choice is the most important ingredient in democracy. If politics is simply about kneecapping rivals and winning by default, how can that be good for the country?

As a candidate or MP, I will answer smears and I will debate my rivals where we disagree. But my campaign will always be positive and my literature will remain civilized and honest.