INTERVIEW: Sadiq Khan reveals receiving police protection over threats ‘from a number of sides’

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INTERVIEW: Sadiq Khan reveals receiving police protection over threats ‘from a number of sides’

Launching his campaign to become London mayor for a third time, Sadiq Khan tells Jewish News he will not hesitate to continue calling out antisemitism

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Sadiq Khan speaks to Jewish News
Sadiq Khan speaks to Jewish News

Sadiq Khan has admitted receiving police protection over threats from political extremists “from a number of sides” as he launched his campaign to become Mayor of London for a third time.

Speaking to Jewish News at Monday’s campaign launch event for the election in May, the mayor admitted it should “worry us all” that politics in this country is “more polarised than it has ever been.”

Asked specifically how he coped with being labelled an “Islamist” or even a “Hamas supporter” by extremists on the right, and as a “Zionist” or worse by those on the opposite extreme, Khan said: “I am not some who believes that we should be cowered. But I am concerned and, you know, I get it both ways.

“You know, my police protection isn’t just from one side, it’s from a number of sides. But I think the key thing for me is to just carry on doing what I believe is right.

“And what that means is being a friend to all communities in London. By calling out wrong when it’s wrong. So if somebody says something antisemitic, call them out.”

Sadiq Khan and Keir Starmer at the mayoral campaign launch

Speaking to television and radio broadcasters at the launch, in a health centre in Harrow Road, west London, Khan was repeatedly asked for his view on the investigation into the comments on anti semitism made by the MP Diane Abbott.

Since the reports of the openly racist remarks made by Tory donor Frank Hester about Abbott, there have been calls for the Labour whip to be returned to the Hackney South and Stoke Newington MP, because an investigation into her conduct is not resolved 11 months later.

But Khan told Jewish News it is clear that the reported racist comments of Hester are a “separate issue” to the ongoing investigation into Abbott’s comments about Jews, travellers and the Irish, made in an Observer article.
The mayor also says that like Labour leader Keir Starmer, he should not get involved with the independent investigation into Abbott, as someone who would be viewed as being “partial”.

He adds:”What she (Abbott) said in the Observer letter was clearly wrong. And that’s why there is this process taking place. I think it is possible to on the one hand be the worst possible recipient of racism and misogyny and on the othehand, a complaint has been undertaken in relation to the letter that she wrote.”

Khan added: “Previously in the Labour Party under a different leadership there was an independent complaints process. People like me, people like Keir Starmer should not be giving a running commentary on what happens to Diane Abbott. I think that is for the independent complaints process to determine.”

Asked if 11 months was too long for the investigation to run for, the mayor said: “Given the choice between an expeditious conclusion to the investigation, or the right result, I’d choose the later option.”

Khan continues to describe London as the greatest city in the world, and appearing at his campaign launch event alongside Labour leader Keir Starmer he spoke enthusiastically about the prospect, that come the general election later this year, he could be serving a third term as mayor alongside a prime minister from the same party.

Sadiq Khan at mayoral campaign launch

But he also admitted that there were clear problems at the moment around community cohesion, as a result of the impact of the Hamas terror attack of 7 October in Israel on this country.

“Yes, it upsets me when I see Jewish friends, neighbours and colleagues on the receiving end of antisemitism,” he says, before pointing to the regular pro-Palestine demos that have taken place in the  city in response to the Hamas massacre, and Israel’s response.

“It upsets me when I see the vast majority of protesters acting lawfully, safely, peacefully, but a small minority do something stupid.

‘I respect fully the right for freedom of expression and free speech, but be cognisant and conscious that some of the things you are saying may be lawful, but it’s causing real anguish, hurt and fear to our friends, neighbours and colleagues for no other reason than that they are Jewish.

“Protest is intrinsic to living in a democracy. “But it should be lawful, peaceful and safe. So we shouldn’t be saying things that causes upset. Of course you have a right to protest. Nobody should be saying you shouldn’t protest, that’s wrong.”

Khan, who refuses to play down the prospect of the controversial Conservative candidate beating him in May, admitted it was only after he was handed the faith and communities minister role under the last Labour government in 2008, that he fully understood the link events in the Middle East had on events in the UK.

Khan, a lawyer, who has a 25-year long friendship with Labour leader Starmer, says it should “worry us all” just how fractured and polarised politics has currently become.

“I’m afraid what we are seeing since 7 October is another example of an increase in antisemitism, and in Islamophobia and other hate crimes.”

His vision as mayor, he says, will always be as someone who “sought to bring communities together” and “not just being tolerated but being respected, celebrated and embraced.”

Khan added: “I am someone who is passionate about the power of politics to do good, and the power of politicians to bring communities together.”

When first elected mayor in May 2016, Khan’s first engagement was at the  Yom HaShoah Commemoration in Barnet, where he met Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and listened intently to survivors something he has mentioned in the past, but brings up again now as he speaks of the importance of learning the traumatic experiences of other communities.

“It is traumatising listening to Holocaust survivors, but I think for those of us who are not Jewish, that is how we learn.”

Khan, a lawyer, who has a 25-year long friendship with Labour leader Starmer, says it should “worry us all” just how fractured and polarised politics has currently become.

He says he fears the threats and intimidation from extremists “is scaring people away” from entering politics, especially women and people from minority communities.

Khan praises “friends” such as Luciana Berger, Louise Ellman and Ruth Smooth from the way they bravely spoke out against antisemitism in the Labour Party.

Left to right: Adrian Cohen of London Jewish Forum, David Baddiel, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl, JLC Chair Keith Black and Rabbi Hackenbroch

He also had kind words to say for Sajid Javid for speaking out over anti-Muslim rhetoric in the Tory Party, but suggests more Tories should now be calling the problem, in the wake of the remarks from  Lee Anderson, who had the whip removed and later joined Reform UK, after suggesting Khan was controlled by “Islamists.”

Khan described Tory mayoral hopeful Hall as his “opponent” and someone whose comments on Black and Muslim people at times have left him “appalled.”

On his own campaign, Khan promised the “greatest council homebuilding drive in a generation” and defended his controversial his ultra-low emission zone for London.

Khan promised to complete 40,000 new homes by 2030. His commitment to green issues was also given a boost when Starmer said that in the same way he wouldn’t serve his own children dirty water, he didn’t want them breathing dirty air.

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