The Labour candidate for London mayor, Sadiq Khan, has condemned the Conservatives for using “the politics of division and fear” to seek to defeat him, likening their approach to that used by Donald Trump.
Ten days before the election, in which Khan’s main rival is the Tory candidate, Zac Goldsmith, he diverted from a speech about economic equality and opportunity to again castigate the Conservative approach.
Goldsmith’s campaign has repeatedly linked the Labour candidate to what it calls extremist Muslim figures, saying Khan has regularly shared platforms with such people. Last week David Cameron faced shouts of “racist” in the Commons after using prime minister’s questions to repeat such views, saying Khan had shared platforms with extremists “again and again and again”.
In a speech at London Metropolitan University, where he studied law, Khan echoed the sentiments of Doreen Lawrence, the mother of murdered teenager Stephen, who introduced him.
There was, Khan said, “a clear choice” at the election on 5 May. “A choice between the politics of division and fear that has defined the Tory campaign, or the politics of unity, hope and opportunity that has defined mine. The Tory view of politics is all about division and fear.”
Speaking to reporters after the speech, Khan said he believed the “desperate, negative” Conservative tactics, honed by the Australian election guru Lynton Crosby, would not resonate in the city.
“I think this Donald Trump approach to politics, trying to divide communities, turn them against each other – I don’t think will work in London,” he said.
“We don’t just tolerate differences, we respect them. My campaign has Muslims, Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs, those who aren’t a member of an organised faith, rich, poor, old, young, black, white, gay, lesbian. We’ve even got Yorkshiremen and women helping on my campaign, that’s how inclusive we are. And that’s the London I know.”
Asked about reports that he had addressed events where men and women sat separately, Khan said this could happen at some places of worship, but said that while he did not like this he was by no means the only politician to do so.
“As the only one of the two leading candidates who’s a proud feminist, of course I’d rather see men and women mingling,” he said. “But you’ll have seen Zac Goldsmith and David Cameron going to similar events. And I’m the one being talked about.”
The bulk of the speech focused on economic and social equality, with Khan promising to provide more opportunities for young Londoners in education, work and housing. He noted that without change, his teenage daughters would never be able to afford to buy homes in the city.
“If things don’t change – the dream of home ownership in the city they call home will remain a dream,” he said. “They face a lifetime of renting – paying more than half their income – with no guarantee of security or quality.”
Asked after the speech if the mayor’s limited powers made promises on issues such as school places credible, Khan insisted this was the case: “Some people think the job of the mayor is to walk the red carpet, cut a ribbon and make a few jokes. I can do all that, by the way. Mayors have powers delivered by parliament but also by persuasion, and I think they can lobby for more powers.”
This article was written by Peter Walker, for theguardian.com on Monday 25th April 2016 11.29 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010