Sophy Ridge on Sunday Interview with Sadiq Khan London Mayor


NIALL PATERSON: President Trump arrives in the UK tomorrow, he’s clashed in the past with the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, and when I caught up with him earlier this week, I asked him whether the President would be coming if it had been down to him?

SADIQ KHAN: I think it is important for us to have good relations with our close allies, I think it’s important for our allies to be here to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the D-Day Landings. We have got to have good relations with the USA but I don't think we should be rolling out the red carpet, I don't think this should be a state visit and why do I say that? I think a close ally is akin to a best friend and the thing with a best friend is of course you stand shoulder to shoulder with them at times of adversity but you’ve got to call them out when you think they’re wrong and there are so many things about President Donald Trump’s policies that are the antithesis of our values in London plus our values as a country.

NP: But you see a distinction then between the office of the President and the occupant of that office? I mean if there is a time to roll out the red carpet for the United States President, surely the commemorations that he is attending, surely that is the occasion on which you should?

SADIQ KHAN: Look, there are other close allies coming for the commemorations, they are not getting a state visit, a state banquet costing millions of pounds and my point is this: some of the things that Donald Trump has done in the last two, three years, Londoners find abhorrent and offensive. Rolling back the reproductive rights of women, separating children from their parents on the Mexican border, introducing a ban on Muslim majority countries, standing up and defending white supremacists, neo-Nazis and anti-Semites in Charlottesville, amplifying messages from racists in this country, walking away from the Paris Climate Accord and I could go on. That frustration with our Prime Minister is she is not willing to say boo to a goose.

NP: What do you think it would do to the nominally special relationship for Donald Trump to be told that the red carpet wouldn’t be rolled out?

SADIQ KHAN: Look, there are no reasons at all why we can’t have good relations with the USA. Look, we in London benefit from massive investment to our city from US companies, US individuals. We have this summer American sports coming to London with major league baseball and I know many Americans love us and our country but that friendship means candour and I think we should be candid with the American President anyway but just because we disagree on so many things doesn’t mean that we can’t have a good relationship. We have got to distinguish the current office holder of the President of the USA and our relationship with the country and its people and its businesses and future office holders. We now know that our Prime Minister won’t be around for much longer, similarly this President won’t be there forever and one of the things that people will look back on about our approach to this President is I think they’ll regret that our government and this Prime Minister didn’t stand up more to him.

NP: Given your obvious antipathy towards the man and given the antipathy that you display on behalf of those Londoners who you assume dislike him, there is a protest that he’ll face on Tuesday, can we expect to see you at the front of it?

SADIQ KHAN: I won’t be there at the protest, I think it’s inappropriate but what’s important with the protest is that it’s peaceful, lawful and safe. Whatever things actually, and I’m not being trite here, that the allies fought for in the Second World War, was for us to have these freedoms and these liberties to protest against things that we find objectionable, I think it’s right and proper that Londoners and others around the country who have got concerns around Donald Trump should protest. The key thing is it’s got to be lawful, it’s got to be safe and it’s got to be peaceful as well.

NP: Do you have the money to police the protest?

SADIQ KHAN: The Met Police service work incredibly hard, I’m spoken to the Commissioner, I speak to her on a regular basis and she’s confident that her police service will be able to police safely over the course of the next few days of the President’s visit and also keep him safe as well, which is really important.

NP: It is clear that there have been some pressures on the police to a large extent from the Extinction Rebellion campaign.

SADIQ KHAN: Our police officers work incredibly hard, they are overstretched and under-resourced. That’s a consequence of massive cuts from this government over the last eight, nine years and if you speak to police and commissioners, if you speak to chief constables around the country, they have similar challenges.

NP: But let’s be clear, you’re not saying there is nothing you can do? You set the £13 billion budget.

SADIQ KHAN: That is one of the reasons why, unlike the previous mayor, in my first few years of Mayor I have increased by record sums the amount of money we give from City Hall to the police by increasing council tax, through efficiencies, through business rates.

NP: But surely it’s more like a finger in the dyke.

SADIQ KHAN: Well the way that funding works in this country is 80% roughly speaking of funding for police forces comes from central government. In London we’re losing a billion pounds, a billion pounds of funding from 2010 to 2020 so you can state the fact that police numbers have gone down, community officer numbers have gone down, police staff have gone down, police stations have closed down and we’ve seen the consequences of massive cuts in police in the rise in violent crime.

NP: Okay, let’s be explicit about this: burglary up 37% since you became Mayor, robbery up 59%, knife crime up 52%, there have been goodness how many stories about young people being stabbed in the street. There is a direct line in your mind from the withdrawal of that billion pounds worth of funding and those kids being stabbed?

SADIQ KHAN: There is a link. It’s not the only reason, the causes of violent crime are complex, they are deep seated problems – inequality, poverty, lack of opportunity, lack of aspiration. There is also in part of that mix a consequence of making massive cuts in the police budgets.

NP: So to what extent then is it a matter of personal regret for you that London is less safe than when you took the job?

SADIQ KHAN: Well it’s not necessary, that’s the first thing. We made huge progress in the first three years but it is deeply upsetting to me when I meet a bereaved mum or dad, when I meet a bereaved brother or sister whose life has been changed forever because someone in their family has lost their life to violent crime. Each death is a tragedy, I’ve been to too many funerals and I have met too many Londoners whose life will never be the same again and I think all these deaths that are caused by violent crime are preventable. I think had we invested in some of these young Londoners at an earlier stage they could have been diverted away from crime. There is no excuse by the way for somebody stabbing somebody, many of the victims are people who were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

NP: I wonder if we can turn to Brexit and first of all those European elections. Labour lost ground here in London, rather shockingly in fact to people who have followed Labours fortunes here over the years. Is it that equivocation of the second vote that cost Labour so badly?

SADIQ KHAN: It was heartbreaking to speak to Labour supporters, Labour activists and Labour members who couldn’t vote Labour in the European elections. Some of the reasons given was the lack of clarity around Labour’s position around Brexit, some of the reasons were given a lack of being stronger about the fact that we have been betrayed by those who made promises to leave and we should be calling for a public vote and there is a real concern that I’ve got that the less we clarify at a national level our position of where we stand in Europe could lead to these people who didn’t vote for us in the European elections not voting for us the next time there is an election.

NP: The second referendum was clearly an issue, perhaps as much as an issue as the person who is leading the party surely, Jeremy Corbyn?

SADIQ KHAN: A big issue was that of clarity in our position on Europe, a big issue was the fact that we’re not being stronger in relation to the need for a public vote but my view is quite clear, my view is that all that we are presented with now from the government is a million miles away from what we were promised in the referendum campaign and in the light of that, the British public for the first time should give a say to do you accept this negotiation by the government or the option of remaining in the EU?

NP: I mean the Labour party is, everyone is admitting, in something of an invidious position. You’ve got the Leave voters in the north, the Remain voters in the south, is there a way to square the circle?

SADIQ KHAN: Well sometimes leadership is about leading from the front. You have got to make sure the people following you, you’ve got to be authentic and have conviction in what you believe. We now know that Parliament is in gridlock, Parliament can’t decide what is the optimal outcome. Actually the pragmatic case now for saying there should be a public vote, so not just as a conviction politician but for pragmatic reasons, let the British public have a say for the first time – do you want to stay in the European Union as it is, reform it if you can or do you accept the deal negotiated by the government? That would lead to, by the way, less jobs, less wealth, less prosperity. We have seen the consequences on the NHS, on construction and other sectors and that’s before we have left the European Union.

NP: Can I just check, you did vote Labour?

SADIQ KHAN: I did, yes.

NP: Good, we can move on from that. But in all seriousness, where does the Labour party go with all the lack of electoral success that it has had under Jeremy Corbyn’s Prime Ministership, where does it go with him at the top of the party?

SADIQ KHAN: Jeremy Corbyn has led our party through two elections, he is the leader who has got my full support.

NP: But he hasn’t won the elections that he has been in.

SADIQ KHAN: Well to be fair the last time an election was called, Theresa May as Prime Minister was 20 points ahead in the polls and the reason she called the election was to try and wipe out Labour and win a massive majority so that she could negotiate an extreme Brexit deal with the European Union and Jeremy Corbyn showed his abilities to campaign. I am disappointed that we didn’t win the last election but I’m confident that if we stay united and we have a good manifesto we can win and that means, by the way, that we’re clear in relation to our views on the European Union.

NP: I wonder to what extent you think that being Mayor of London sets one up to be Prime Minister of the United Kingdom?

SADIQ KHAN: I’m loving being Mayor of London, I love this city and I’m looking forward to my next two, three, four terms.

NP: I am perhaps thinking of the chap who came before you, whether or not Boris Johnson, you feel that his time here at City Hall perhaps made him, I don't know, a little bit more practical, a little more closer to the numbers. Is there anything that he took from his time here at City Hall that you can see translating well to his being Prime Minister?

SADIQ KHAN: I spent my first three years as Mayor spending too much time cleaning up his mess and the idea that Boris Johnson’s time as Mayor is an application for the job of being Prime Minister I find astonishing. What I can say is I am concerned that our next Prime Minister will be chosen by a small percentage of the population, something like 0.15% of our country’s population will choose our next Prime Minister. We should have a Conservative leader who understands the need for a general election so that the British public can decide whether they accept the verdict of 100,000 Tory members who whether they want to have a say and decide to rubber stamp that person as Prime Minister or to give us a chance in the Labour party to offer our country our manifesto, our view for the future.

NP: Sadiq Khan, thank you very much for being with us.