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Sadiq Khan on London-only visas, gender-neutral toilets, Theresa May’s feminist credentials and beating Boris at cricket

ES Magazine meets London Mayor Sadiq Khan

Sadiq Khan on London-only visas, gender-neutral toilets, Theresa May’s feminist credentials and beating Boris at cricket
"What you shouldn’t do is impose your faith on others."

Sadiq Khan on whether he would ever stand for Labour leader

“No. I’ve got the best job in the world. I could do it for five, six terms. I am loving this job. I’m so lucky.”

On his criticism of Jeremy Corbyn’s approach

“We shouldn’t be embarrassed about ambition. When we were little, my dad’s ambition was to get a home of his own. I wanted to have a car, a nice watch, nice clothes, a nice home. That’s ambition. A flat to a home, a small property to a bigger property.

“There’s a great Gordon Brown saying, ‘One day in power is worth more than 5,000 in opposition’. Why? Because if you are in opposition for 5,000 days you can’t do anything. You’re in power for a day you can do stuff. Improve people’s lives. What we need to recognise is this: we need to win the next election.”

On his plans for post-Brexit London

[Khan’s ideas for the capital includes having ‘London-only visas’. He believes it’s crucial too, that London is represented in discussions on the future of our relationship with the European Union]: “We voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU, and there are unique needs for London, which is why the Government needs to give us a seat at the table when it comes to negotiating. We are a split country. One thing I can do in a position of power and influence is heal the rifts. I’m not suggesting we declare independence” [he adds, with the caveat that] “I do love the idea of being El Presidente!”

On politicians being openly religious

“I think [that Theresa May talking so openly about her religion] is great. In the Labour Party we became embarrassed about talking about faith and religion and we shouldn’t be. It’s part and parcel of who we are. Some people are members of an organised faith, some aren’t. What you shouldn’t do is impose your faith on others.”

On Theresa May’s and Margaret Thatcher’s feminist credentials

[His response to the idea that the next Conservative Prime Minister will be a woman is to applaud it, while adding:] “How much of a feminist was Margaret Thatcher? Discuss. What are Theresa May’s feminist credentials? Discuss.” [but he is swift to add] “Symbolism matters. Barack Obama, simply by virtue of being elected [America’s first black president], that was enough.”

On the Iraq war and Labour’s record in power

“I was quite clear about the mistakes of the Iraq war. But we shouldn’t allow that to cloud the huge achievements after 1997; the minimum wage, the Human Rights Act, investment in the NHS, rapid recruitment of teachers, nurses and police officers, the Lawrence Inquiry recommendations, the Equality Act, cancelling the debt of the poorest countries, an increase in aid and trade. Those things happened because we won elections.“

On the shifting conversation around identity and transgender police officers

[His London, he says, will be a city full of religious tolerance, fully electric buses, transgender police officers and loos that are non-gender specific.] “Identity is an area that is evolving and developing and stuff, so I think you should respect people’s right to choose how they want to be identified.”

On Zac Goldsmith’s disappointing mayoral campaign

“I was selected before [Zac] and I said: ‘Of all the Tory candidates I hope it’s Zac.’ Why? Because we would have a great campaign where we’d have a competing vision of our city. It would be positive, fizzing with ideas.”[He pauses before describing Zac’s campaign as ‘disappointing’ and ‘appalling’. Has he heard from Zac since? No. He says it didn’t bother him that the Britain First candidate turned his back when Khan was announced as Mayor, but] “Zac should’ve shown some class and shook my hand.”

On motivating minorities to get involved in politics

“During the campaign I had dozens and dozens of [people of colour] say to me: ‘We were thinking about getting, and were encouraging our children to get, involved in politics because we see you’re doing a great job and this is our country. But you know what? Nah! We’re not willing to go through that’. [Grinning, he adds] “That’s why I had to win.”

On growing up with racial abuse and the solidarity that invokes

“It wasn’t uncommon for us to be called the P word and get into fights. The thing about racial abuse is it has ripple effect. It’s a crime against the community. Even though you may not have witnessed the racial abuse, when you hear about it, you feel it. The rest of the stuff – sticks and stones. But being racially abused crosses the line. That was the unwritten rule growing up: you do not allow the P word or the N word. And if someone calls a friend the N word, you are part of that fight. That’s really important, the solidarity.”

On the rise in racist attacks following the vote on Brexit

“The heartbreaking thing is that in the past two weeks we’ve seen the P word being used again. I’ve got friends who’ve been called the N word. You can never be complacent. Language matters. You can’t dismiss it as name calling. It can lead to all sorts of things – attacks, criminal damage, graffiti.”

On Boris Johnson as a poor mayor and a poor cricket player

“He was a poor mayor. I’m better than Boris at cricket. Jo [Johnson, Boris’ brother] is a good bowler, but Boris is rubbish. I could probably have him at tennis as well.”

On his initial disillusionment with the Labour Party

“I wanted to do something. I thought joining the Labour Party meant that you’d meet Neil Kinnock and get involved. But my first Labour Party ward meeting was acrimonious, fighting and arguing – a bit like now actually – and I didn’t go back for two years. I thought the purpose of joining the party was to discuss how you can win elections and get Margaret Thatcher out, and then do something to make my dad happy, make my teachers happy, make my friends happy.”

On the influence of his daughters

“Something changes when you get daughters. I’ve made sure that we can guarantee funding for rape crisis centres, that more than half of my deputy mayors are women, or that when it comes to my business advisory board, at least half are women.”

On how the Khans celebrate Christmas and spoiling his daughters

“Our daughters make us buy presents for them. Stockings yeah. There’s a Christmas list. But there’s also an Eid list and a birthday list. And I still buy them Valentine’s gifts and they are 16 and 15. They have me over a barrel.”


The full interview appears in this week’s issue of ES Magazine, out Thursday 14th July 2016



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