• Sunday, June 23, 2024

HEADLINE STORY

London rejected politics of hate, says Sadiq Khan

The re-elected London mayor has called on the rest of the country to follow the lead of Londoners

Sadiq Khan (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

By: SARWAR ALAM

RE-ELECTED London mayor Sadiq Khan has called on the rest of the country to follow the lead of Londoners and reject the Conservative Party’s “racist” and “fear-mongering” politics at the next general election.

Khan, 53, last Saturday (4) secured a historic third term in office, the first London mayor to do so, with a majority of some 275,000 over his Conservative rival Susan Hall.

The Tory campaign to oust Khan included anti-Ulez Facebook groups that contained “Islamophobia and death threats” and a controversial video attacking Khan that described London as a city riddled with “crime and desperation”. That video was later taken down by the Tory party.

“My concern is that the Conservatives may have been trying some of this stuff in my election to use it in the general election,” Khan told Eastern Eye on Tuesday (7).

“I’ve spoken to Keir (Starmer) and the Labour Party, because I think the Tories will try the same sort of negative tactics at the general election.

“Hopefully the country will reject that like they did in London.”

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Sadiq Khan and his wife Saadiya celebrate with his supporters on Tuesday (7) (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

An investigation by Greenpeace’s Unearthed found that 36 anti-Ulez groups were being “run by officials within the Conservative Party” with Hall a member of them.

Labour reported the groups to the police after Khan was described as a “terrorist sympathiser” in posts and members appeared to celebrate the destruction of Ulez cameras and made comments expressing disbelief that the mayor had not been “taken out”.

The Tory party said it was “reviewing its processes and policies regarding Facebook groups”.

“My issue in relation to politics is it’s fair to have discussion, debates, arguments about policy, about your alternative visions,” said Khan.

“What’s not fair is to try and divide communities or to raise issues in a way that’s not just dog whistle, but megaphone racist, and it’s really important for it to be called out.”

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Mayor Sadiq Khan speaking after being declared elected last Saturday (4) (Photo by Peter Nicholls/Getty Images)

Khan reflected on the video posted on the Conservative Party’s X platform that showed a bleak, black and white video of London featuring an American voiceover and which used footage of a stampede in a New York subway station.

“The concern I have is when the Conservative Party releases a video giving the impression there is mayhem in London by using images from Penn Station in New York – basically lying,” he said.

“I’m concerned with the government fear-mongering in relation to me allegedly bringing in pay-per-mile (Hall claimed Khan had spent £150 million on tech for pay-per-mile already).

“I’m concerned with the Conservative government lies about policies that I don’t have.

“Londoners have seen through their lies. Londoners have called it out. This result is the biggest victory by a politician in the 24 years of mayoralty, it made history.

“What Londoners want is for politicians to be responsible, but also they want to work with me to build a fairer, greener, safer London,” he added. “They’re also excited about the possibility of a general election leading to Labour government and a Labour mayor working with a Labour government to transform our city.”

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Rishi Sunak (left) has rebuffed Sir Keir Starmer’s calls for an imminent general election (Photo by Stefan Rousseau – WPA Pool/Getty Images)

In addition, Khan also hit back at his critics from across the pond – namely former US president Donald Trump, who, during his time at the White House, accused Khan of doing a “very bad job on terrorism” and called him a “stone cold loser” and a “national disgrace”.

At an election campaign rally in Wisconsin last week, the Republican candidate for president claimed London had become “unrecognisable” because it has “opened its doors to jihad”.

“Donald Trump said London has ‘opened the door to extremism. He couldn’t be more wrong,” said Khan.

“The truth is, the results of this election have proved Londoners have slammed the door shut on his brand of hard-right populism. Londoners have said no to racism, no to division and no to hate. And, yes, once again to diversity.”

Khan revealed the threats, social media abuse and protests outside his family home – which took place during the campaign – had taken a toll on his family.

“It’s distressing for my wife and daughters to have protests at my home, for me to receive death threats and need police protection – it’s upsetting, it’s frightening and it’s wrong,” he said.

“It is important that those politicians who are irresponsible understand the consequences. I think all of us should reflect on our behaviour and the impact it has on others.

“I speak as somebody who was close friends of Jo Cox and have a huge amount of respect for (Conservative MP) David Amess (both of whom were murdered).”

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London Mayor Sadiq Khan signs the Mayoral Declaration during his swearing in ceremony for a third term on May 7, 2024 in London (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

On Tuesday (7), Khan signed the declaration of office at London’s Tate Modern art gallery to officially begin his third four-year term as mayor.

He told Eastern Eye his ambition was to “heal our city and heal our country”, when asked about rising tensions among communities in view of large demonstrations in the capital in recent months over the Israel-Palestine conflict.

“London is now a world leader in the new green era, a beacon for climate action and clean air and for openness, inclusion and equality across the world,” he said.

“Indeed, the reason London shines so bright today is because our story is one written by people of all faiths, all ethnicities and all backgrounds.”

Khan reflected on his own life of being a Pakistani immigrant bus driver’s son, who became the first Muslim mayor of a Western capital when initially elected in 2016.

He said the cost-of-living crisis meant Londoners were being priced out of the city, with the odds “increasingly stacked against a bus driver’s son, or a nurse’s daughter”.

Khan said he will be “pulling out all the stops” to give young people the best possible chance of success.

“I want London to be a byword for opportunity, the best place in the world for people to grow up in, and that means supporting young people,” he said.

The mayor added that he wants to make free school meals permanent in London’s state primary schools, fund more youth clubs and mental health support, as well as invest in high-quality mentoring.

“Over the next four years, City Hall will be working directly with young people to help develop new and innovative policies to support them from birth, to feeling safe, securing a job and finding an affordable home. We need to give the next generation a chance,” he added.

However, while Khan won nine of fourteen constituencies, there were areas with large south Asian communities he lost, including in Brent and Harrow in the north west, and Bexley and Bromley in south London – a result which may have been influenced by the expansion of the pollution charge (Ulez).

He also came second in Ealing and Hillingdon as well as Croydon and Sutton and Havering and Redbridge.

“Unless you live in North Korea or Russia, there’s always going to be people who don’t vote for you. That’s the joys of a democracy, pluralism,” Khan said.

“I’m quite clear, though, I am the mayor for all Londoners, not just those that voted for me.

“The strength of our city is our diversity, not a weakness. I’ll work with whoever wants to work with me to improve our city.”

Khan did manage to increase his share of vote from 40 per cent to 44 per cent in what turned out to be the second-largest winning gap in the history of the London mayoralty, surpassed only by his first victory in 2016, when a two-vote system was in use.

Asked if the margin of victory had convinced him to target a fourth term in 2028, Khan said: “I’m not even thinking about the next (mayoral) elections.

“What I’m thinking about is the first 30 days, the first 100 days. We have got a plan. We are going to hit the ground running.”

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