Sadiq Khan

British politician

Sadiq Aman Khan PC (born 8 October 1970) is a British politician and the current Mayor of London since 2016. He was the Member of Parliament (MP) for Tooting from 2005-2016. A member of the Labour Party, he is on the party's soft left wing and has been ideologically characterised as a social democrat.

Born in Tooting, South London to a working-class British Pakistani family, Khan gained a degree in Law from the University of North London. He subsequently worked as a solicitor specialising in human rights, and chaired Liberty for three years. Joining the Labour Party, Khan was a Councillor for the London Borough of Wandsworth from 1994-2006 before being elected as Member of Parliament for Tooting at the 2005 general election. Under the Labour government of Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Khan was appointed Minister of State for Communities in 2008, later becoming Minister of State for Transport. A key ally of former Labour leader Ed Miliband, he served in the Miliband's Shadow Cabinet as Shadow Secretary of State for Justice, Shadow Lord Chancellor, and Shadow Minister for London.

Khan was elected Mayor of London at the May 2016 mayoral election, succeeding Conservative Party Mayor Boris Johnson. He immediately resigned as MP for Tooting upon his victory at the mayoral election. He is London's first ethnic minority mayor, and the first Muslim to become the mayor of a major Western capital. Khan won the largest personal mandate (number of popular votes) in one election of any politician in the history of the United Kingdom. As mayor, he introduced reforms to limit charges on London's public transport, backed London Gatwick Airport expansion, and focused on uniting the city's varied communities. He was a vocal supporter of the unsuccessful Britain Stronger in Europe campaign to retain UK membership of the European Union. Despite the "Remain" campaign's defeat in the UK Referendum on continuing EU Membership, it should be noted that Khan was somewhat successful in his campaign for the UK to vote "Remain" as: 28 of the 32 boroughs in London voted "Remain" in the referendum.

Khan's focus on intercommunity cohesion has been praised by supporters of interfaith dialogue, while opponents have criticised his willingness to "share a platform" with allegedly fundamentalist Islamic clerics, mainly from his time as a constituency MP in Tooting. His work to improve relations between Muslim communities and wider British society has seen him receive security threats from both Islamist and far-right activists.

Early life

Khan was born at St George's Hospital in Tooting, South London, the fifth of eight children (seven sons and a daughter) in a working-class Sunni Muslim family of Pakistani immigrants.

His grandparents migrated from Bombay Presidency, British India to Pakistan following the partition of India in 1947, and his parents emigrated to England from Pakistan, shortly before Khan was born. His father, Amanullah Khan (now deceased), worked as a bus driver for over twenty-five years; his mother, Sehrun, was a seamstress.

Ernest Bevin College in Tooting

Khan and his siblings grew up in a three-bedroom council flat on the Henry Prince Estate in Earlsfield. He attended Fircroft Primary School and then Ernest Bevin School (now Ernest Bevin College), a local comprehensive. Khan studied science and mathematics at A-level, in the hope of eventually becoming a dentist. A teacher recommended that he read law instead, as he had an argumentative personality. The teacher's suggestion, along with the American television programme L.A. Law, inspired Khan to do so. He read Law at the University of North London (now London Metropolitan University)

From his earliest years, Khan worked: "I was surrounded by my mum and dad working all the time, so as soon as I could get a job, I got a job. I got a paper round, a Saturday job—some summers I laboured on a building site." The family continues to send money to relatives in Pakistan, "because we're blessed being in this country.” He and his family often encountered racism, which led to him and his brothers taking up boxing at the Earlsfield Amateur Boxing Club. While studying for his degree, from the age of 18-21, he had a Saturday job at the Peter Jones department store in Sloane Square.

Legal career

Before entering the House of Commons in 2005, Khan practised as a solicitor.

He completed the Law Society finals at the College of Law in Guildford. From 1994-97, he was employed as a trainee solicitor and assistant solicitor and from 1997-2005, was a partner in the firm Christian Khan with Louise Christian.

During his legal career, he acted in actions against the police, employment and discrimination law, judicial reviews, inquests and crime, and was involved in cases including the following:

  • Bubbins vs The United Kingdom (European Court of Human Rights – shooting of an unarmed individual by police marksmen)
  • HSU and Thompson v Met Police (wrongful arrest/police damages)
  • Reeves v Met Police (duty of care to prisoners)
  • Murray v CAB (discrimination)
  • Ahmed v University of Oxford (racial discrimination against a student)
  • Dr Jadhav v Secretary of State for Health (racial discrimination in the employment of Indian doctors by the health service)
  • CI Logan v Met Police (racial discrimination)
  • Supt Dizaei v Met Police (police damages, discrimination)
  • Inquest into the death of David Rocky Bennett (use of restraints)
  • Lead solicitor on Mayday demonstration 2001 test case litigation (Human Rights Act)
  • Farrakhan v Home Secretary (Human Rights Act): in 2001, Khan represented the American Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan in the High Court and successfully overturned a ban on him entering the United Kingdom, first imposed in 1986.
  • In February 2000, Khan represented a group of Kurdish actors who were arrested by Metropolitan Police during a rehearsal of the Harold Pinter play Mountain Language, securing £150,000 in damages for the group for their wrongful arrest and the trauma caused by the arrest.
  • McDowell and Taylor v Met Police: Leroy McDowell and Wayne Taylor successfully sued the Metropolitan Police for assault and false imprisonment.

Parliamentary career

Before entering Parliament, Khan represented Tooting as a Councillor for the London Borough of Wandsworth from 1994 to 2006, and was granted the title of Honorary Alderman of Wandsworth upon his retirement from local politics.

In 2003, Tooting Constituency Labour Party decided to open its parliamentary selection to all interested candidates, including the incumbent MP since 1974, Tom Cox. This prompted Cox, then in his mid-70s, to announce his retirement rather than risk de-selection. In the subsequent selection contest, Khan defeated five other local candidates to become Labour's candidate for the seat. He was elected to Parliament at the 2005 general election.

Khan was awarded the "Newcomer of the Year Award" at the 2005 Spectator Parliamentarian of the Year Awards "for the tough-mindedness and clarity with which he has spoken about the very difficult issues of Islamic terror". In August 2006, he was a signatory of an open letter to Tony Blair criticising UK foreign policy.

Khan had to repay £500 in expenses in 2007 in relation to a newsletter sent to constituents featuring a 'Labour rose', which was deemed to be unduly prominent. While the content of the newsletter was not deemed to be party political, the rose logo was found to be unduly prominent which may have had the effect of promoting a political party. There was no suggestion that Khan had deliberately or dishonestly compiled his expenses claims, which were not explicitly disallowed under the rules at that time. The rules were retrospectively changed disallowing the claim, which had previously been approved by the House of Commons authorities.

Sadiq Khan in 2009

On 3 February 2008, The Sunday Times claimed that a conversation between Khan and prisoner Babar Ahmad – a constituent accused and later convicted of involvement in terrorism – at Woodhill Prison in Milton Keynes had been bugged by the Metropolitan Police Anti-Terrorist Branch. An inquiry was launched by the Justice Secretary, Jack Straw.

There was concern that the bugging contravened the Wilson Doctrine that police should not bug MPs. The report concluded that the doctrine did not apply because it affected only bugging requiring approval by the Home Secretary, while in Khan's case the monitoring was authorised by a senior police officer. The Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, then announced a further policy review and said the bugging of discussions between MPs and their constituents should be banned.

In 2010, Khan was re-elected as the MP for Tooting despite a swing against his party of 3.6% and a halving of his previous majority. In the subsequent Labour leadership election Khan was an early backer of Ed Miliband, becoming his campaign manager.

In April 2010 it was revealed that Khan had repaid falsely claimed expenses on two occasions, when literature was sent to his constituents. The first incident concerned letters sent out before the 2010 General Election which were ruled to have the "unintentional effect of promoting his return to office", the second a £2,550 repayment for Christmas, Eid, and birthday cards for constituents, dating back to 2006. Under House of Commons rules, pre-paid envelopes and official stationery can only be used for official parliamentary business.

Khan's claim for the greetings cards was initially rejected, but he presented a new invoice no longer identifying the nature of the claim, and this was accepted. Khan attributed the improper claim for the cards to "inexperience" and human error and apologised for breaking the expenses rules.

At the 2015 general election, Khan was returned for a third term as MP for Tooting, defeating his Conservative rival by 2,842 votes. He was one of 36 Labour MPs to nominate Jeremy Corbyn as a candidate in the Labour leadership election of 2015, but has said that he was "no patsy" to Corbyn and would stand up to him. He later stated that he nominated Corbyn to "broaden the debate" but did not then vote for him.

On 9 May 2016, Khan resigned as an MP by his appointment to the ancient office of Crown Steward and Bailiff of The Three Chiltern Hundreds, a customary practice in the UK. This triggered a by-election in Tooting to be held in June 2016.

Government minister

Sadiq Khan speaking in 2011

On Prime Minister Gordon Brown's Cabinet reshuffle of 3 October 2008, Khan was appointed Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, replacing Parmjit Dhanda, and becoming the second Muslim to serve in HM Government. In the House of Commons in January 2009, Khan criticised the Pope for the rehabilitation of Bishop Richard Williamson following his remarks about the Holocaust, a move he described as "highly unsavoury" and of "great concern".

In June 1999 he was promoted to Minister of State for Transport. In what was believed to be a first for an MP, Khan used his Twitter account to self-announce his promotion. Though Khan was not a member of the cabinet, he attended meetings for agenda items covering his policy area.

In March 2010, Khan publicly stated that for a second successive year he would not be taking a pay rise as an MP or Minister, declaring "At a time when many people in Tooting and throughout the country are having to accept pay freezes I don't think it's appropriate for MPs to accept a pay rise." For his first 15 months' service in Government, he chose not to draw a ministerial incremental salary.

Shadow Cabinet

In the wake of Labour's 2010 election defeat, Acting Leader Harriet Harman appointed Khan Shadow Secretary of State for Transport.

After running Ed Miliband's successful leadership campaign, Khan was previously rewarded with the senior roles of Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Justice Secretary. He was advanced as Shadow Minister for London, in addition to his other responsibilities, in 2013.

He is regularly named among the Top 100 London politicians in the London Evening Standard's annual poll of the 1,000 most influential Londoners and is an Ambassador for Mosaic Network, an initiative set up by Prince Charles.

Mayor of London

2016 candidacy

Map of Greater London boroughs that produced a majority for Khan (red) and Goldsmith (blue) in the 2016 mayoral election

In 2013, Sadiq Khan appeared on a number of speaker platforms and in the press discussing the 2016 London mayoral election, and was quoted in the London Evening Standard saying he would consider running for Mayor of London to succeed Boris Johnson.

In May 2015, he declared his intention to become the Labour Party's mayoral candidate. In September 2015, Khan won the selection, polling 37.5% of the first round vote with former minister Dame Tessa Jowell in second place on 29.7%. In the final round, following the elimination of lower-placed candidates, Khan took 58.9% against 41.1% for Jowell.

In November 2015, Sadiq Khan made a promise to freeze all London's Tube, train and bus fares for four years if elected Mayor. He said this would cost £450m over four years, but Transport for London said the real cost would be £1.9 billion, saying that Khan had not considered "increasing ridership over the Business Plan (passenger numbers are rising by 5 per cent every year) and there will be new fares revenue from Crossrail when it opens in 2018/19".

Khan's popular vote tally in the 2016 election gave him in absolute terms the largest personal mandate of any politician in the history of the United Kingdom,, however Ken Livingstone 2000 London mayoral win was by a larger percentage, which is possibly a more relevant measure of mandate in mayoral elections. His mandate is the currently also third largest of any politician in Europe (behind the presidents of France and Portugal, not counting the president of Russia). He is London's first ethnic minority mayor. Various press sources noted that Khan's election made him the first actively affiliated Muslim to become mayor of a major Western capital. International press sources often focused on his religious identity, with many right-wing American media outlets reacting with horror at his election. The far right party Britain First issued a press statement declaring Khan a Muslim "occupier" engaged in entryism and threatened to target where he "lives, works and prays" with direct action protest.

Khan was officially sworn in as Mayor in a multi-faith ceremony held in Southwark Cathedral the following day. His first act as mayor was his appearance at a Holocaust memorial ceremony in a rugby stadium in North London, although due to delays with the results of the election, he only officially took office on 9 May. In his first major interview upon being elected, he emphasised the need for Labour to do more to win-over those who did not normally vote for the party, a statement seen as a criticism of Corbyn's leadership.

Mayoralty

In the buildup to the referendum on the UK's continuing membership of the European Union (EU), Khan was a vocal supporter of the 'Remain' camp. He agreed to attend a Britain Stronger in Europe campaign event with the Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron to demonstrate cross-party support for remaining within the EU, for which he was criticised by Labour Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, who claimed that sharing a platform with the Conservatives "discredits us". After the murder of MP Jo Cox during the campaign, Khan called for the country to "pause and reflect" on the manner in which the Leave and Remain camps had been approaching the debate, stating that it had been marred by a "climate of hatred, of poison, of negativity, of cynicism". Following the success of the 'Leave' vote, Khan insisted that all EU citizens living in London were welcome in the city and that he was grateful for the contribution that they made to it. He endorsed the Metropolitan Police's 'We Stand Together' campaign to combat the rise in racial abuse following the referendum, and later backed the 'London is Open' campaign to encourage businesses, artists, and performers to continue coming to the city despite Brexit.

Khan at Pride in London, June 2016

While fasting for the Islamic holy month of Ramadan in 2016, Khan declared that he would use the period as an opportunity to help "break down the mystique and suspicion" surrounding Islam in Britain and help to "get out there and build bridges" between communities, organising iftars to be held at synagogues, churches, and mosques. He then appeared at a Trafalgar Square celebration of Eid al-Fitr, endorsing religious freedom and lambasting "criminals who do bad things and use the name of Islam to justify what they do". Following the 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting, Khan attended a vigil in Old Compton Street, Soho, and insisted that he would "will do everything in [his] power to ensure that LGBT Londoners feel safe in every part of our city"; later that month he marched in the LGBT Pride London parade.

In August 2016, Khan declared his support for Owen Smith's bid to oust Jeremy Corbyn as Labour Party leader. Although describing him as a "principled Labour man", Khan said that Corbyn had failed to gain popularity with the electorate and that Labour would not win a general election under Corbyn's leadership.

Transport and housing policies

On transport, Khan immediately announced the introduction of a "Hopper" bus ticket which would allow a passenger to take two bus journeys within an hour for the price of one; it was intended to benefit those on low incomes most. In June, Khan announced that his electoral pledge to prevent transport fare rises would only apply to "single fares" and pay as you go fares, and not daily, monthly, weekly, or yearly railcards; he was widely criticised for this, including by the Liberal Democrat Caroline Pidgeon, who accused him of having broken his promise. In June 2016 he ordered TfL to ban any advertising on its network that was deemed to engage in body shaming and the demeaning of women. In July he urged the government to allow TfL to take control of the failing Southern rail service, and in August launched the 24-hour Underground service on Fridays and Saturdays, an idea initially proposed by Johnson two years previously.

In his first weeks as Mayor, Khan criticised foreign investors for treating homes in London as "gold bricks for investment", instead urging them to invest in the construction of "affordable homes" for Londoners through a new agency, Homes for Londoners, which would be funded by both public and private money. However, in contrast to a pre-election statement, he revealed that he no longer supported rent freezes in the city. Insisting that he would "oppose building on the Green Belt, which is now even more important than when it was created", Khan vetoed the construction of a football stadium and two blocks of flats on Green Belt land in Chislehurst, after the plan had already been supported by Bromley Council.

Khan backed expansion of London City Airport, removing the block on this instituted by Johnson's administration; environmentalist campaigners like Siân Berry stated that this was a breach of Khan's pledge to be London's "greenest ever" mayor. Opposing expansion at Heathrow Airport, he urged Prime Minister Theresa May to instead support expansion at Gatwick Airport, stating that to do so would bring "substantial economic benefits" to London.

Khan launched a "No Nights Sleeping Rough" taskforce to tackle youth homelessness in London in October 2016.

Political views

Writing for The Spectator, the political commentator Nick Cohen described Khan as a centre-left social democrat, while the journalist Amol Rajan termed him "a torch-bearer for the social democratic wing" of the Labour Party. The BBC describe Khan as being located on the party's soft left. Conversely, in an article for Al Jazeera, the Marxist commentator Richard Seymour described Khan as a centrist, while Matt Wrack, the General Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, characterised Khan as belonging to "that part of the Labour Party that was in government under Blair and Brown".

The journalist Dave Hill described Khan as a social liberal, and Khan has self-described as a "proud feminist".

Khan has stated that he received death threats for voting in favour of the same-sex marriage equality bill. There was a fatwa put out against him, in which an Imam declared him to be no longer a Muslim; he had been given police advice on protection.

Awards and nominations

In January 2013 and 2015, Khan was nominated for the Politician of the Year Award at the British Muslim Awards. He later won the award in February 2016.

Personal life

Khan is a practicing Muslim, and regularly attends Al-Muzzammil Mosque in Tooting. Writing in The Guardian, the journalist Dave Hill described Khan as "a moderate, socially liberal Muslim".

Khan married Saadiya Ahmed, a fellow solicitor, in 1994 and has two daughters, Anisah (born 1999) and Ammarah (born 2001). He has raised both daughters in the Islamic faith.

Khan also served as Chairman of the Fabian Society, remaining on its Executive Committee. In 2009, he won the Jenny Jeger Award (Best Fabian Pamphlet) for his writing "Fairness not Favours: How to re-connect with British Muslims". He also edited the Fabian Essay Collection Our London: the Capital beyond 2015.

Khan used to perform stand-up comedy before running for Mayor, including a ten-minute money-raising Stand Up for Labour routine. Comedian Arthur Smith stated that Khan could become a "good club-level comedian one day".

Sadiq Khan
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