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Thursday, May 30, 2024

Mayor of London elections – Sadiq Khan: “For the last 8 years, we have been held back by the Tory government. I have always stood up for London and want to build a fairer, safer and greener London for everyone.”

The race for the next London Mayor has started. Londoners will go to the polls on 2 May 2024. To help you decide who you think best represents you we have spoken with your Mayoral candidates. Here is our exclusive with incumbent Labour candidate Sadiq Khan

Sadiq Khan is currently leading in the polls on the runup to the 2024 London Mayor elections on 2 May. But can he remain in power, and what are his policies on the issues facing Londoners?

The Asian Standard put forward the questions that matter to Mr Khan, and to hold him to account.

Full name, Sadiq Aman Khan, he was elected as Mayor of London in 2016, a position he has successfully held since. In that time, he has been praised for making London’s transport more accessible, and his efforts to reduce pollution in the capital.

However, he has also faced criticism as crime continues to rise in the capital. Many also want his Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) scheme abolished, with claims that it is ineffective and unfairly hits small business owners operating in London.

Born in 1970s Tooting in South London, he went on to study law at the University of North London. This led Mr Khan to work as a solicitor, specialising in human rights issues. Joining the Labour Party, Mr Khan became a councillor for Tooting. Elected to the House of Commons, he gained prominence on the Labour front bench.

Mr Khan went on to firstly become the Minister of state for transport, trailblazing as one of the first Asian Muslims to hold a position in the cabinet.

Winning the 2016 mayoral election, he defeated the conservative candidate Zac Goldsmith, he resigned as an MP and dedicated himself to the role of London Mayor.

You have relentlessly campaigned for a ceasefire in Gaza – which is not the line taken by the leader of the Labour Party, can you share why you’ve not taken the party line on this?   

The last few months have been incredibly difficult for many Londoners, particularly those with family and friends in Gaza and Israel. We have all watched in absolute horror at the killing and suffering in Israel and Palestine and the unimaginable humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

The scale of suffering and deaths is catastrophic and one of the reasons why I have consistently called for a ceasefire since October. We need to stop the loss of civilian lives on both sides – including children – now. The best way to do that is by having a ceasefire and the release of the hostages.

There can only ever be a political resolution to achieving peace. It can’t simply be the escalation of military conflict, and an ongoing cycle of death, pain, and destruction.

I know a lot of Londoners have been impacted by the awful loss of life we have witnessed, and I share in that pain, too.

Together, let’s pray for peace in the region, and keep the hope that things can and will, one day soon, be better.

You became the first ever British Asian Muslim Mayor in 2017, which was a huge victory for acceptance and representation, yet seven years on, a Member of Parliament makes a statement saying, ‘Islamists control the London Mayor’.  

So, during your tenure how have your efforts as Mayor contributed to fostering inclusivity and unity among London’s diverse communities, irrespective of their faith or background? Additionally, what strategies will you implement to continue bridging divides and ensuring cohesion among all residents of London, particularly as hate crime is on the rise since the Israel – Hamas conflict? 

There has been a deeply worrying rise in antisemitic and Islamophobic hate crime in London and across the country since 7 October, and we need to do everything we possibly can to address this.

Crimes of hate or the threat of violence have no place in London, and I support the Met Police taking a zero-tolerance approach to Islamophobia and antisemitism which are both sadly rising not just in London, but across the UK.

I recently announced an extra £250,000 of funding for organizations combating hate – on top of the £14.8 million I’ve already invested in helping victims of hate crime and combating hate.

We are working closely with Tell Mama and the Community Security Trust to provide them with enhanced support in their work supporting Jewish and Muslim Londoners, on top of the extra funding I have made available to address this pressing issue.

While we may be from different communities, speak a multitude of languages and hold varying beliefs, we all belong in London and help to make it the greatest city in the world.

I have made these efforts in spite of a Tory government that has reduced the London policing budget by £1 billion since 2010.

In the face of this appalling failure of government, the conservative party has chosen a candidate in Susan Hall, who is an outspoken supporter of Donald Trump, Boris Johnson and Suella Braverman, and who thinks that London’s diversity is a weakness, not a strength.  She has promoted racist comments by Enoch Powell on her social media, further cementing her stance against the diversity of our city, and of our country. She is representative of the 14 years of Tory failure that the entire country has been burdened with and let down by.

A vote for her is a vote for further division at a time when we need to strengthen the ties between our communities, not playing off their differences for political gain. We need to protect London’s values, our respect for diversity and what’s special about London.

The situation with hate crime has also resulted in the government committing additional spending on protecting Jewish communities and £117 million to help protect Muslim places of worship, community centres and schools. What is your opinion on this? Can more be done?  

No part of London should feel unsafe or unwelcoming to any Londoner, irrespective of community. We are a globally revered city, one where our diversity is an asset, not a weakness.

But the Tories have cut £1bn from the Met police since 2010. I have stepped in to help fill the financial gaps left by the government, investing record amounts from City Hall to support the police – with a 93 per cent percent increase in the amount of police funding coming from City Hall since 2016.

TFL and the police have been doing all they can to target offenders, but there’s always more we can do. We need to be even more proactive in preventing incidents happening in the first place and targeting the worst hotspots. We have announced a new Taskforce that will work directly with London’s public bodies, helping them bear down hard on violence, hate and intimidation.

This will always be a priority for me as Mayor. There must never be any complacency when it comes to fighting hate crime across our city.

London has a large South Asian community – over 20%. If elected for another term, how do you intend to represent their interests? 

London is a city that celebrates our diversity and values the rich contributions that people from all backgrounds make. It makes us the greatest city in the world, and it makes me proud to be your mayor.

Our South Asian community are integral members of this city, they are part of what makes London so unique – contributing to the thriving cultural hub that this city provides.

Now, more than ever, we must build strong and connected communities, and I will be seeking to engage all Londoners in pursuit of this vital goal. We rightly take pride in our city’s reputation for tolerance, respect, and unity but we must not take this for granted – we must remain vigilant to new threats and challenges to our social fabric.

I have invested almost £11m, more than any other Mayor, to tackle hate, intolerance and extremism In London – including a significant uplift in specialist support for victims of hate crime.

As Mayor, I want us to do everything we can to overcome the barriers and inequalities that still hold back too many Londoners, including racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia and all other forms of discrimination including on disability, age, faith or family status. My vision is for a city where everyone can reach their full potential, and I am confident we can make real progress in the years ahead. Together, we can create a more equal, integrated city – a city that works for all Londoners.

Your Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) is proving extremely controversial, with some even alleging that it is simply a cash grab. You took office in 2016, and figures published last year show that every single London Borough has air pollution levels that exceed World Health Organisation guidelines. In some London boroughs the air quality even breaches the less strict UK legal limit for nitrogen dioxide. Given your eight years as Mayor, how can you defend this policy?  

Expanding the ULEZ was a very difficult decision, but it was the right one to protect the health of millions of Londoners. Now the London-wide ULEZ is in place and has proved to be very effective, I am committed to not moving the goalposts for drivers.

The evidence shows that ULEZ is working. 95 per cent of vehicles seen driving on London’s roads are now compliant and don’t need to pay a penny. Thousands of drivers have now received money to scrap their dirty vehicles, helping clean up London’s air and protect Londoners’ health.

It is clear that these policies are making a substantial impact cleaning up London’s air and improving Londoners’ health. The amount of dirty roadside nitrogen dioxide (NO2) has now halved in London between 2016 and 2023.

We’ve cut roadside nitrogen dioxide pollution in half and achieved the lowest annual levels on record. London is leading the way, cleaning up our air at a much faster rate than the rest of the UK. Clean air matters for so many reasons – helping to increase children’s life expectancy, reduce hospital admissions for asthma and serious lung conditions, and enable people to lead longer, healthier lives.

I know that there is still more work to do. Air pollution levels are still damaging Londoners’ health.  That’s why, in addition to world-leading action such as cleaning up our bus and taxi fleets, I’m investing a further £5.3 million in 17 borough-led projects to improve London’s air quality in local communities and build a cleaner, greener, and healthier city for everyone.

Despite the Tories clearly trying to mislead Londoners by repeatedly claiming I would do so, I have clearly ruled out the introduction of a pay-per-mile road user charging scheme. I have now put in writing to the TfL Commissioner my clear pledge to London: no pay-per-mile scheme will be introduced while I am Mayor.

To help Londoners and businesses who are struggling, I created the biggest ever scrappage scheme – providing £210 million to help Londoners, small businesses and charities switch to cleaner, greener modes of transport.

I will continue working to reduce air pollution and tackle the climate crisis, but I am clear this will not be done by introducing a new road user charging scheme or amending the standards of the ULEZ scheme.  I will be focused on making big progress in other areas, including: ensuring homes and office buildings are more energy efficient, rolling out more zero-emission buses, accelerating the work to make it easier and safer to walk and cycle in London, making public transport more affordable and accessible, planting more trees, and expanding London’s network of electric vehicle charging stations.*

The figures on knife crime in London are truly shocking, with many referring to it as, ‘an epidemic’. In London there were approximately 12,786 incidents of knife or sharp instrument offences recorded by the police in the year 2022/2023. Knife crime has risen by 49% since the year before you took office. How can you defend your policies when it is obvious the issue is out of control? If elected once more, what will you do differently to tackle knife crime?  

Reducing crime will always be the top priority for me as Mayor and I promise to give youth club work and crime prevention the attention it deserves to ensure we can build a safer London for everyone.  Only a vote for a Labour Mayor will ensure continued and sustained investment in London’s youth sector, and London’s young people

If elected for another term, what is your vision for the future of London? 

For the last 8 years, we have been held back by the Tory government. Susan Hall would fail London just as the Tories have failed the country over the last 14 years. Just imagine what we could achieve with a Labour Mayor in City Hall and a new Labour Government working hand-in-hand from later this year. It is a moment of maximum opportunity.

That’s why I won’t tire of emphasising just how important this election is. It is because the differences between myself and the Tory candidate are so stark, because while I have a vision for London – one focused on getting those 40,000 new affordable council houses built, on providing 1,300 more police to protect our streets – she has no vision, no clear ideas on how she will deliver for London.

I have always stood up for London and want to build a fairer, safer and greener London for everyone.

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