London Mayor election not a foregone conclusion, says Khan
By Hamed Chapman
London, (The Muslim News): Sadiq Khan may be odds-on favourite to be re-elected as Mayor of London for a second term in May but he remains far from being complacent about the result given the smear campaign that the Tories ran against him in 2016.
“It’s really important that The Muslim News readers understand the importance of voting. It’s not a foregone conclusion. Don’t believe the polls, your vote does matter,” Khan said.
“If you want to stand up for London’s values that we see diversity as a strength, not a weakness, that means a mayor standing up to Donald Trump, standing up to Brexit, standing up to Boris Johnson. It means voting for me,” he said in an exclusive interview with the publication’s Editor, Ahmed J Versi.
The latest polling from YouGov/MEI has the incumbent Labour Mayor more than 20 points ahead of his Conservative rival Shaun Bailey, leading by 47% to 16%. At the last election Khan got 57% to 43% against the previous Tory candidate Zac Goldsmith.
The mayoral campaign was “very different” because of the Covid pandemic, there was no hustings and meeting voters but “very similar” in other ways because his main opponent has similar views as Goldsmith, the former Shadow Justice Secretary said.
In line with the paper’s editorial policy, The Muslim News contacted the office of Bailey for an interview ahead of next month’s elections but extraordinarily has yet to have the courtesy of a response though the offer remains open.
Elsewhere in his wide-ranging interview, the Mayor insisted that it was not he who wanted to increase the council tax but that it was Johnson’s Government who said it was the “only way to pay for policing, the only way to pay for transport, the only way to pay for the fire service.”
“What I’m doing is using the only lever I’ve got to give our police the support they need, to transporters the support they need and to give the fire service the support they need and it’s in the context of the police can’t have further cuts, they’ve have had, that’s why I’ve had to raise council tax, the figures that I’ve for £15.”
Khan recalled that it was the Tory Government that “reduced the police numbers by 21,000 across England and Wales” but said it was because of his lobbying for the last five years, it had finally listened and agreed to return 20,000 officers across the country only to make sure London gets its fair share.
The Government, he said, wants him to “reduce free travel” for under 18s and for over 60s, to “extend the congestion charge up to the North Circular on the South Circular” but that he had said “no, and they’ve said you’ve got to find money elsewhere.” This was why council tax was increasing to pay for this and the fire service, particularly after Grenfell.
Rather than raising money by proposing to charge for people who live outside of Greater London if they want to go into the capital, the Mayor said he had told the Government instead to give the city the £500 million raised through road tax that went to other parts of the country.
If the Government rejected it, one option being considered was for a £3.50 charge for those who live outside but come in as a ‘boundary charge’ so residents in London would not pay it, but Khan was hoping that it does not need to happen “if the Government is sensible and gives us the money raised in London to support to TFL.”
With regard to fears about rising knife crime, he said that serious youth violence had been growing around the country, including London since before he became mayor in 2013 and “before his policies of investing more than a billion pounds in the police and invest in more than 70 million pounds in young Londoners.
After setting up England’s first violence reduction unit, the Mayor said “we’ve seen thankfully crime going down” including among under by more than 27% and youth violence by more than 11 percent and gun crime by more than 15% as well as lower levels of burglaries and low-level crime.
“But I’m not complacent because I am thinking about the families, who’ve lost a loved one. I’m thinking about the victims of a knife crime. We must always have them at the fore of our mind. These are people we’re talking about not numbers, but I’m really pleased we’re making progress with my public health approach, treating violent crime like a public health issue, stopping it from happening in the first place.”
On affordable housing, Khan rejected that he had failed to meet his promises, saying he had “broken all my records, all my targets and broken all the records” with his housing policies.
“When I became Mayor, the definition of an affordable home was one costing half a million pounds to buy or 80% of market value” he said but got rid of that definition, because he did not think it was the right yardstick.
He said he had “made it harder on myself by having a more strict definition and affordable homes, either a council home, or a home where you pay a London living rent, a third of average earnings is linked to earnings of market value or three, shadows ownership part by part rent, where you pay £5,000 deposit.”
Last year, Khan boasted the London “began building more council homes than any year since 1983” and “started building more social rent homes last year, than all four years of Boris Johnson’s mayoralty.”
At the same time the quality for private renters had improved by introducing “a rogue landlord register, so tenants can see if it was a dodgy landlord before they sign a tenancy” as well as making “rents more affordable in London with a form of rent control.”
Questioned about Labour’s leadership under Sir Keir Starmer, Khan insisted that the main opposition party had made progress after suffering its worst results at the last general election in more than 65 years.
“It’s really important to understand he’s going to sort the foundations out and he sorted those foundations out. He’s made good progress. It’s really difficult though because his entire first year has been where he’s not been able to meet members of the public, he’s not been able to meet MPs he’s not been able to meet the labour party members.”
In the current pandemic, the Government “needs our support” to deal with it, the Mayor said. “It’s really important for at the right times for Keir to provide that support.”
He compared the Covid-19 outbreak as being equivalent to the second world war and its impact on the country, and Labour was providing support to the Government “in the national interest.
“I think, as lockdown is eased, as we come out of the lockdown people will get to know the real Keir Starmer and Keir will make more progress in making sure Labour is fit to be the party of government. The next time a general election happens.”
20 candidates are standing for the Mayor of London elections.
Sadiq Khan, Labour Party
Shaun Bailey, Conservative Party Candidate
Louisa Manon Porritt, Liberal Democrats
Sian Berry, Green Party
Full list of the candidates https://www.londonelects.org.uk/im-voter/candidates/mayoral-candidates
[Photo: Ahmed J Versi, Editor of The Muslim News interviewing Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan on Zoom]
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