London Mayor, Sadiq Khan in an exclusive interview with the EdItor of The Muslim News, Ahmed J Versi said the Government has agreed to work with him
Ahmed J Versi
Despite the Government’s sinister campaign to discredit Sadiq Khan because of his religion, ministers have decided to cooperate with him since his landslide victory to become London’s Mayor, the former Labour minister has revealed.
“The Prime Minister spoke to me the first weekend I was elected, almost the next day. He was very warm in his words and when I was with him campaigning (in favour of the EU) what was important was when he said that he was proud to share a platform with me and that I was a proud Brit and also a proud Muslim,” Khan said.
In an exclusive interview with The Muslim News, he also said he had a “very good meeting” with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne. “He agrees that it’s in no one’s interest to cut its nose and spite its face and that’s what they would do by trying to obstruct the mandate being given by Londoners because the Londoners chose overwhelmingly my offer.”
Cameron and several of his ministers came under fire for supporting the Islamophobic campaign against Khan but which failed to prevent him being elected by the largest majority so far by a London mayor.
“It is for them to explain their tactics during the campaign not for me. What is quite clear is that there has been no resistance since I became Mayor. I speak regularly to the Commissioner of police, I speak regularly with the Home Secretary, I’ve got a review taking place about security in London so it’s important I take that task very seriously,” he said.
“What I will say is what I said as a Lawyer or an MP or a Minister. I’m not exceptional. If I can do it you can do it. And all it is hard work getting a helping hand and a lucky break.
“And so it’s really important this is our country we have to get involved in civic society and we’ve got to get involved in mainstream politics, there is no alternative because we’re the lawmakers,” Khan told The Muslim News.
“If you love this city and you’re going to live here you want to get involved in the decisions that will affect your life whether its stuff around your faith, halal, hijabs, what you wear to affordable homes, modern transport system, making sure you have skills for the jobs of tomorrow, making sure the environment is a clean environment, and air quality is dealt with, to all sorts of other issues, and so you’ve got to get involved.”
“Now the good news is that hopefully I’ll be the person that suffers the most because I’m the first. Once the first goes through, it becomes easier for the second, third, fourth and fifth person and it should be easier now for the next person and the person afterwards and ethnic minorities, religious minorities, and other minorities. It’s my story about how I first went to the Palace to become a Privy Councillor and I took my Qur’an but left it behind for others to follow. And within a year Sayeeda Warsi was there being a Privy Council. So this is our country we love this country and we’ve got to get involved.”
“The good thing is we won, my worry would have been if I didn’t win. It would’ve set back the cause. It’s not easy but hard work gets you through.”
One of his election pledges was to freeze fare in London and Khan confirmed that this has been done until his four year tenure ends in 2020. “The promise in the manifesto was to freeze all TFL fares and we’ve done that.” The freeze however cannot cover all travel cards as TFL accounts for around 96 per cent under his responsibility and the remainder of trains is up to the Government.
Hate crime is another big issue, going up by 30 per cent in the last year, mainly though the huge rise in attacks against Muslims. “I’ve told the Met Police Commissioner to deal with hate crime is one of his priorities. Zero tolerance on hate crimes.”
“We’ve always got to bring back neighbourhood police teams to give people confidence to report hate crimes and high visible officers to deter bad people doing bad things. We need to have police using public transport as a visible deterrent but also to make people feel safe.”
The new Mayor emphasised that: “We have to use whatever opportunity have, we condemn unequivocally hate crime and those who commit social media hate crimes need to be treated the same as if they were hate crimes outside of it. So twitter, facebook and others to take it seriously is obviously very important.”
“I was pleased by the guidance from the DPP last year. We’ve got a lot of surveillance stuff and we have to make sure it’s seen as the evil as it is. There should be no hierarchy when it comes to racism. One form of racism is no less bad than another. Islamophobia is racism and it should be dealt with.”
Unlike Boris Johnson who stopped engagement with the Muslim community, especially with Eid celebrations in the Square when he became Mayor, Khan said he would be in Trafalgar Square this year for the festive next month. “I will see how good or bad it is but it is an important event for hundreds and thousands of Londoners so it is important to me as the Mayor to see if we can celebrate it.”
The former Labour minister remained ecstatic about his election victory, saying it had been “remarkable” all the messages he had received from around the world, including such places as Vietnam and Australia as well as big news in Muslim majority countries as well as America and across Europe.
“I think we’ve shown the world we are a beacon and we are the best city in the world we don’t just tolerate difference, we respect it, we embrace it, and it’s what I was saying about London what I always say about London is the London promise.”
“The London promise is that you work hard, you get a helping hand, you can achieve anything. My criticism of the previous mayoralty and my motivation to become the mayor is where is the helping hand? I think we have a huge opportunity to show the rest of the world how to deal with integration, multiculturalism. How we can do social integration better.”
“Things aren’t perfect in London, there is still lots and lots of things we need to grapple with but the mandate we received on May 5, and the confidence London showed in me and the offer I was giving gives us the chance to do that.”
About how far the horizons extend over his own future, Khan was rather more coy. “Jeremy Corbyn is (Labour) leader and he’ll stay leader for a long time. My job is to be the Mayor and a good Mayor and to do the stuff I said on my manifesto to do and to be a mayor for all London and I’ve got the best job in the world.”