Whether David Cameron likes it or not, Zac Goldsmith is one of the most recognisable young Tory MPs who has influence and interest well beyond the walled garden of Westminster.
As his Conservative colleagues meet in Manchester to discuss the immediate future of their party, Goldsmith joins The Huffington Post UK for one of our Conversation Starter Fringe Events with political director Mehdi Hasan.
The event starts at 12.30pm on Tuesday and we'll be live blogging the event here. You can follow your host Mehdi Hasan here, the guest Zac Goldsmith, assistant political editor Ned Simons who will be updating this blog, along with executive editor Stephen Hull.
Some pretty interesting moments there. For us the confirmation Boris will not be getting Zac's seat is juicy. We also liked the Imran Khan story.
Thanks for joining us. Team Huff Post UK
Sadly our time is up! Thanks to those who came. And thanks to those who were following here!
"If I was popular with everyone on the front bench, I probably wouldn't be doing my job properly." @ZacGoldsmith #HPConvo #cpc13— Carla Buzasi (@CarlaBuzasi) 3 years ago
Goldsmith confirms he texted Tory MP and Middle East expert Rory Stewart for advice on Syria. Only, he texted Rory Bremner by accident. "Rory Bremner's answer was extraordinarily erudite."
Goldsmith says there is "no reason why particular communities, ethic or geographical, shouldn't support the Conservative Party".
Goldsmith tells a story about how when he was elected CCHQ asked him to find out how he got so much support from ethnic minorities. He reveals he took Imran Khan into the local mosque, which helped. Also, it's sort of cheating.
He adds: "I feel I have a very good relationship with the Mosque and a community of people who would normally support the Conservative Party."
Tory MP @ZacGoldsmith thinks Mail article on @Ed_Miliband father is 'appalling' and recalls similar attack on his own father. #CPC13— Darren McCaffrey (@DMcCaffreySKY) 4 years ago
Goldsmith is not a big fan of Paul Dacre, the editor of the Daily Mail, which he says has gone after his father in the past. The topic is a live one in Manchester as Ed Miliband has hit back at the paper for it's decision to go after Ralph Miliband.
"I waged war against the Daily Mail, not with lawyers, but using my sister and her army of Twitter followers," he reveals. And he says he has the apology from Dacre pinned to his bathroom wall.
Asked about whether he is going to give up his seat to Boris, he says: "He [the mayor] may have his own ambitions but he is not going to do it from Richmond."
Goldsmith also says he has no plans to stand for mayor himself, in a sort of job-swap: "I'm not going to stand as a candidate for mayor of london."
Goldsmith says if he had a vote now on EU membership he would vote to leave. "An ideal would be a profoundly reformed EU" but he adds "I'm not holding my breath".
"It depends on the choice. If I had to vote now do we want a continuation of the status quo and there was nothing in between I would vote to come out."
Did Ukip push the Tories into promising a referendum? "I think it would be churlish to say they didn't play a role but i did think it was exclusively Ukip there was a lot of agitation on the backbenches."
It looks like Zac has pulled the crowds in. Plenty of Fleet Street here looking for a scoop.
@ZacGoldsmith "On a personal level I'm not sure many people miss Chris Huhne" #hpconvo #cpc13— Geordie Bore (@mrgarethm) 4 years ago
Goldsmith is asked about environment secretary Owen Paterson saying there might actually be advantages of climate change.
He says the comments were actually "a huge step forward as far as I knew he didn't think warming was happening, this is remarkable progress". A joke. "I don't understand the resistance some people have in my party to climate change."
Goldsmith was offered a job in government as an environmental envoy. But he never actually started it, because he voted against David Cameron on the issue of an EU referendum. Goldsmith says he would have been a very uncomfortable member [of the government].
He says he told the prime minister: "Rather than firing me all the time perhaps it shouldn't be a formal job."
But he was given a "formal" job. "The mistake wasn't firing me after it was announced, it was hiring me."
"I think if you are on the payroll if you are in the government whether as a minion or in the cabinet there is a reason why collective responsibility matters."
We are the greenest government ever, without a doubt, but that's not difficult, says Zac Goldsmith #hpconvo #cpc13— agirlcalledrose (@agirlcalledrose) 4 years ago
My loyalty has to be to my constituents before party - Zac Goldsmith explains his rebel voting track record #hpconvo #cpc13— Katie Harrison (@KatieHarrisonTF) 1 year ago
Goldsmith is a big fan of the idea of recall for MPs. So voters can kick them out mid-term. But he thinks the government Bill is the "worst kind of political pretence". This is because, he says, the Bill actually hands the power to a committee of MPs not the voters. He says he will vote against the government's Bill - even though he supports the principle.
Goldsmith has about a 40% rebellion rate against the whip. But he says his loyalty is to his voters not to the party.
"What do you mean by loyalty," he asks. "My job as a backbencher is to hold the government to account on behalf of your constituents. My loyalty is to my constituents. So I have 100% loyalty rate, that has sometimes put me against my leadership."
David Cameron may not be so keen on that definition of loyalty however.
Goldsmith was selected for his Richmond seat in an open primary in 2010. Is life as an MP all it's cracked up to be?
"It's never boring," he says. "It's always frustrating being an MP people imagine you can do much more than you can. My authority in Richmond is no greater than any other person is. You have no actual authority. It's about bluffing.
He adds: "But you can do more inside parliament than you can outside."
The very able Ned Simons has reported a full room. It's all over to him from now as Mehdi starts his grilling.
If you believe The Daily Mail, and yes, millions do (!) then Goldsmith is prepared to roll over and offer his safe seat of Richmond to the blond (insert word) Boris for the 2015 election.
Is this really the case? Over to you, Zac...
Daily Mail's full report here.
Only last week HuffPost UK's Tom Moseley reported exclusively on Caroline Lucas having a pop at David Cameron's. Here's his full story: http://huff.to/192wFM8
On the environment, here's what Goldsmith as previously said:
"Climate change went too far. A lot of stuff slipped off the agenda. The environment became about carbon and not the environment that you can feel and touch and see.Food, biodiversity, air quality all got knocked off. When we talked about forests we talked about them as sticks of carbon.
"If you are just looking only at climate change you do not really have to address the economic system in the same way. By focusing so much on carbon it allowed us to take our eye off the ball."
Here's what Zac has previously said on the key issues
Here's Mehdi, Zac and Ned Simons having a chin wag before the serious business begins.
Afternoon all and welcome to HuffPost UK's Zac Goldsmith event. We've just spoken to Mehdi and here's a couple of things he hopes to grill Zac on:
Recall Environmental politics and the coalition's green record Him giving up his seat for Boris rumours Will he stand for London mayor? Hacking and Leveson Will Tories win the 2015 election? Rich people in politics Life as a backbencher in a coalition and Tory rebellions
There should be time for question and answer session with the audience at the end of Mehdi's interview so there could be some curve balls in there too.
We are gearing up for our big event today with Mehdi Hasan interviewing Zac Goldsmith at the Tory Party Conference.
Here's a comment from Mehdi ahead of the event:
'Looking at Zac Goldsmith's voting record, and depending on your perspective, he is either a serial rebel and backbench troublemaker, or a commendably free spirit and independent-minded.'
Hopefully, we'll soon find out. It all kicks off at 12.30pm today and we'll be following it live here.