By: Eastern Eye Staff
HE IS in charge of one of the richest, and quite probably the most popular cities on the earth right now, and has an electoral mandate politicians on the centre-left in the whole of western Europe can only dream about.
Growing up on a housing estate in Tooting, south London, Sadiq Khan made his way to university and went on to become a very successful lawyer and human rights campaigner.
The son of a bus driver and a seamstress, he was then elected as a Labour MP for the very suburb he was born in.
Khan, the mayor of London is the most influential Asian in Britain today, according to the latest and most comprehensive study of Asian power.
He is No 1 in the much anticipated GG2 Power List, set to be exclusively released at the glitzy GG2 Leadership Awards in London on Thursday (20).
Khan came top of the pile when looking at the country’s 101 most influential and powerful Asian figures in Britain today.
Priti Patel, minister for international development, and Sajid Javid, the minister for communities and local government, both ran the London mayor very close. But when it comes down to it, Khan can get things done in a way that those ministers can’t.
Once he decides to take action, as he has done with the night Tube, a new bus hopper ticket, air pollution and freezing TfL fares – and the firstever gender pay audit at City Hall –there is nothing that can stop him.
Though both Patel and Javid are in the cabinet and control significant budgets, the international nature and profile of being London mayor means Khan has global influence
and a platform where other big cities and nations not only watch him but sit up and take notice.
In an exclusive interview to the Asian Media & Marketing Group (AMG), which publishes the GG2 Power List, Eastern Eye and Garavi Gujarat, Khan said affordable housing was high on his list of priorities for the capital.
He added that he would be learning from Paris, New York and Chicago, as well as Karachi, Mumbai and Dhaka, as the current vice-chair of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership
“I’m focusing on a number of key priorities, but one of the biggest challenges has to be working to deliver the thousands of genuinely affordable homes that London needs,” Khan said.
“The housing crisis is the single biggest barrier to growth and equality facing Londoners today. Too many people are being priced out of our city, unable to afford a home of their own or to
rent near their workplace.”
The father of two daughters said the crisis could not be resolved “overnight” but he is looking to create a new team– Homes for Londoners – to “accelerate building the thousands of genuinely
affordable homes Londoners desperately need.
“We’re also setting up a social letting agent to stop renters from being ripped off, introducing new rules to ensure more of the homes we build are actually affordable and finally tackling the scourge of homelessness.”
Khan said that he is led by one guiding principle above all. “I’ve been driven by one burning ambition for London – for every single Londoner to get the opportunities that our city gave me and my family.
“To achieve this I’m focusing my time and efforts as mayor on a number of core issues including delivering more homes, affordable transport, tackling air pollution, supporting culture, making
sure Londoners have the skills they need, safety, and social integration.”
He has become one of the most articulate and outspoken voices on a post-Brexit Britain. One of his first acts in office was to announce the #LondonIsOpen campaign, promoting the capital as a destination for business, arts and culture, and countering the impression that since Brexit, Britain is busy building walls and barriers to migrants, old and new.
Stars from the film industry recently made a video for the mayor, championing “LondonIsOpen”, making the point that the capital is diverse and non-judgemental.
Film director Gurinder Chadha was one of several high-profile contributors, as were Amma Asante (A United Kingdom) and Gemma Arterton, Jack Whitehall and Noel Clarke. Chadha says: “It (London) is a roost for every bird.”
Khan has been vocal on the issue of Brexit. A leading Remain campaigner, he has called for London to be intimately involved in any deal over the terms of its departure from the European Union.
In an interview with the GG2 Power List, his business policy head, Rajesh Agarwal, has said the mayor would vigorously oppose any change he sees as being harmful to business and the interests
of the City of London.
Khan himself told Eastern Eye that his talks with the government about Brexit have been “encouraging” and argued that a successful deal for London would be in the best interests of the
“I was disappointed by the vote to leave the European Union. But the British people gave their verdict and this has to be respected. I’ve insisted that London’s voice is heard during
the Brexit renegotiations so that London’s interests are always heard. So far, I’ve been encouraged by the government’s response,” he affirmed.
In particular, Khan has also called for more powers to help directly intervene in improving the lives of Londoners and mitigate the impact Brexit might have on the capital.
“I’m working closely with the government in the best interests of London and all Londoners. I’m calling for London to have more control over the services that will help improve life in our city,
such as housing, skills, air quality, health and transport,” he explained.
“In the wake of the EU referendum, this is more important than ever so that we can protect jobs and growth through the uncertainty ahead. This will not only benefit London, but people living in
every region of Great Britain – because when London succeeds, Britain succeeds.”
Khan said he was concerned about the rising level of hate crime since Brexit and vowed to tackle it, so all Londoners can feel safe and secure.
“London is one of the most diverse and progressive cities in the world – a city where, on the whole, we don’t simply tolerate each other, but respect and celebrate our differences.
“But we are far from perfect. Social integration is not keeping pace with the rate of change of our city.
“That’s why, as the mayor of London, I’m working to encourage greater social integration in order to help strengthen London’s social fabric and tighten the bonds between Londoners from different
backgrounds – building bridges between communities, not walls,” he declared.
On a lighter note, he said that he likes to get out with his family. He is married to lawyer Saadiya, with whom he has two teenage daughters.
“One of the highlights of our summer was going to watch Harry Potter and the Cursed Child at the Palace Theatre, but cultural gems aren’t just confined to zone one,” he said.
“I reopened the newly refurbished Tara Arts Theatre in Earlsfield a few months ago. Its unique blend of East meets West productions come highly recommended for a night out.”
Khan said he was looking forward to going to Twickenham on Saturday (23) to see the venerable host of England rugby for 107 years host its first ever American football match between the
New York Giants and the St Louis Rams in the National Football League (NFL).
“I’m also a big sports fan, especially football, boxing and cricket. I am looking forward to heading to Twickenham for the first NFL match to be held at the stadium.
“Having thrown the first pitch at the Mets game in New York recently, I’d also love to see Major League Baseball come to our city,” he revealed.
Khan insisted he wasn’t about to change his football allegiances since becoming mayor.
“Like many other Londoners, I’m a long-suffering Liverpool fan and there’s no changing that now.
“You don’t change your team for political expediency. It’s been a tough few years, but Liverpool have a great manager and some exciting players, so I am looking forward to a good season.”