Interview: Sadiq Khan, Tooting MP and mayoral candidate

April 2016

Sadiq Khan has been Tooting’s MP since 2005 and is one of the two frontrunners to become the next Mayor of London. William Gadsby Peet got in touch with Sadiq to talk about his plans for London if he becomes Mayor.

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  • Why did you decide to become a politician?

I was 24 when I was first elected as a local councillor in the area where I grew up. The reason I stood for election was because I realised that I wanted to help my local area, and the best way of doing this was to be on the council, shaping decisions and standing up for my area.​

  • Do you plan to step down as MP for Tooting if made mayor?

I’ve always said that the job of Mayor of London is a full time one, so yes. 

  • You nominated Jeremy Corbyn for party leader, but have subsequently attacked him, what are your views on Corbyn?

I nominated Jeremy Corbyn because we needed as broad a debate as possible within the party. I was always clear that I would not be voting for him. Jeremy and I will agree on some things but disagree on others. I will always do what I think is best for the people of London.

  • Do you plan to implement more cycle highways in London?

I’m determined to make London a byword for cycling by making it easier and safer. I am 100 per cent committed to the Cycle Superhighway programme and will concentrate on segregated cycle lanes. Not only is it a greener way of getting around the city, and it cuts congestion, but it is also healthier too. However, I’ll learn the lessons of the earlier cycle superhighways – what worked, what didn’t, and how we minimise the impact on traffic during their construction.

  • Some of the conservative party have accused you of having a £1.9 billion hole in your plans for transport in London, how do you respond to these accusations?  

Well the facts are that my fare freeze is fully costed and even the Commissioner of TfL has confirmed that my figures are reasonable, and that my four year fare freeze won’t impact their investment plans. The thing is, TfL is a flabby organisation, which could be so much more efficient. I’ll reduce the amount wasted, cut down on fare evasion and generate more revenue.

What the Tories don’t want to admit is that if they win in May, Londoners will pay 17% more for public transport. By 2020, that means some commuters will have paid £1000 more than they would have done under my fare freeze. I don’t think it’s right hard-pressed commuters should shoulder that burden.

  • What are your plans for TFL?

I’ve already mentioned my fares freeze. By 2020, Londoners won’t pay a penny more than they do now to travel on tubes, buses and trains. I’ll also introduce a new Hopper bus ticket, which will mean that for the cost of one ticket commuters can change buses as many times as they like. And I’ll continue with the investment we need to give London an efficient and affordable transport system, that includes new lines like the Bakerloo Line extension, Crossrail 2, investment in the DLR and Tramlink, further investment in cycling and a renewed focus on cleaning up the city’s air.

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  • How do you think Crossrail will affect London?

I’m not sure Londoners yet quite appreciate the scale of the Crossrail scheme. It is enormous, and will really benefit London. It will cut journey times, open up areas for development, bring economic benefits to the areas it goes through, and relieve pressure on the tube.

 I was the Minister with responsibility for Crossrail, so I know how much planning and investment is needed for massive projects like this. I also know that in the time it is has taken London to get around building Crossrail, Paris has built 6 equivalents. That’s why Crossrail 2 is crucial, as it will bring big benefits to SW London, cutting journey times and creating a direction connection into central London. If we are to remain the best city in the world we need a transport system that is up to the job – I am the candidates who can deliver that.

  • On your website you say that you will be the most pro-business Mayor London has ever seen, how do you plan to achieve this?

Before I was an MP, I used to help run a small business so I have first-hand experience of what businesses need to succeed. I don’t claim to know it all though and have also been out meeting as many business-leaders as I can, unlike my Tory counterpart who seems to have gone out of his way to avoid talking to businesses and business groups. To ensure I bring as much experience to the table as possible I will set up a gender-balanced Business Advisory Board, so we can make sure we always have the best policies for London’s economy.

  • What do you think of the Panama papers leak, are we doing enough in this country to stop people from avoiding tax?

Transparency is key. The Government’s failure to close down UK-administered tax havens, and reluctance to demand that property ownership should be open and public, has led to London becoming the money laundering capital of the world. Billions of pounds of dirty money are sloshing around London’s housing market, driving up prices and worsening the housing crisis. David Cameron has made warm noises about tackling this, but has done nothing about it. London deserves transparency and openness, which is why I recently published my tax records.

  • How do you plan to tackle London’s housing problems if made Mayor?

This election is a referendum on the housing crisis. Eight years of Tory rule in London has given us the worst housing crisis in a generation. Why would you give them another chance on this when they have so comprehensively failed?

I will set up a team in City Hall called Homes for Londoners which will answer directly to me. They will be responsible for delivering genuinely affordable housing across the city so we can stop London from being hollowed out. There are a number of things we can do like freeing up TfL land for development, ensuring 50 per cent of new homes in London are affordable, and giving first dibs for Londoners on new homes. The most important thing is having a Mayor with the vision and the drive to make things happen.

  • How do you respond to Zac Goldsmith’s claim that you have played the race card in your objections to his campaigns use of language?  

There is only one campaign that has resorted to desperate dog-whistle tactics and that is the Zac Goldsmith campaign. Even members of his own party have gone public with their unhappiness at his negative and divisive campaign.

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  • What are your views on immigration in to London, a city that many have claimed is bursting at the seams?

Immigration has benefited London both economically and culturally going back centuries. I regularly talk to businesses who tell me of their frustrations at not being able to attract the best and brightest from across the world. London’s NHS wouldn’t function without its workers from all over the world. What we need is a fair immigration policy, and a Mayor who is planning for the investment we need in housing, transport and public services to cope with a growing city.

  • What are your views on trident?

I am in favour of a continuous nuclear deterrent at sea.

  • What are your views on Britain’s EU membership, should we stay or should we go?

London benefits hugely from being part of the EU, both economically and in terms of security. That’s why I’ll be voting to stay. To leave, as Zac Goldsmith wants, would make us less safe and cost jobs. London can’t afford a Mayor who favours leaving the EU. That’s why I will campaign hard for Britain to stay in.  

  • Goldsmith has accused you of changing your views on Heathrow’s expansion for the sake of electability, do you genuinely believe we shouldn’t expand Heathrow?  

Poor air quality is directly responsible for the deaths of 10,000 Londoners a year. I myself have developed adult-onset asthma because of our poor air quality. The guidance on Heathrow has changed since I supported expansion, and it now makes clear that another runway would be catastrophic for the air quality in parts of London. That’s why I changed my mind. I’m not totally opposed to expansion in airport capacity, unlike Zac Goldsmith. I’ve said we should get on and build a new runway at Gatwick, not Heathrow, so we can benefit economically from the new capacity without compromising on health.

  • What do you think of Donald Trump?

I’m sure in the end that Americans will pick hope over fear.

  • What do you think of the man you’re trying to replace, has he done a good job?

Boris Johnson is very good at cutting ribbons and appearing on the red carpet, but when it comes to running a city he has little to show for his time in office. He has presided over the worst housing crisis in generations, and we’ve all seen our transport fares rocket. Not to mention he has spent the last two years obsessing about returning to Parliament, coveting David Cameron’s job, while neglecting London. What London needs is a full time mayor.

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  • Why do you think you’d do a better job as mayor of London than any of the other candidates?

I believe I’ll do a better job than the other candidates because I have the combination of values and experience needed for the job. I’m determined to be a Mayor for all Londoners, and with my fares freeze, my commitment to build the genuinely affordable homes Londoners need, to tackle the city’s filthy air, and restore genuine community policing, I’m confident I have what it takes. 

If you’d like to learn more about Sadiq Khan’s policies or donate to his campaign you can go to his websitehere

If you’d like to hear Zac Goldsmith’s side of the debate, you can read our interview with him here

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