Gavin Mortimer

Who is – and isn’t – welcome in Sadiq Khan’s London?

Who is – and isn't – welcome in Sadiq Khan's London?
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Right-wing Frenchman Eric Zemmour, who is expected to run for the presidency of his country next year, has been designated persona non grata in London by the city's mayor. 

'Nobody who wants to divide our communities or incites hatred against people because of the colour of their skin or the god they worship is welcome in our city,' said Sadiq Khan in response to a question about Zemmour's presence in the capital.

A noble declaration, one with which few would disagree, but rather incongruous coming from the mouth of Khan. For this is the man who waxed lyrical about Jeremy Corbyn at the Labour party conference in 2017. 

'We made huge progress in the general election and the credit for that goes to one person – the leader of our party - Jeremy Corbyn,' he gushed.

Khan predicted that Labour would win elections; under Jeremy, he said, 'we can build a fairer Britain. A more prosperous Britain. A safer Britain.'

Corbyn didn't, of course, win the 2019 election and a year after Labour's humiliating defeat a report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission disclosed that far from building a fairer Britain, Labour under Corbyn was responsible for 'unlawful' acts of harassment and discrimination. In a statement the commission reported that a culture was allowed to flourish within the party 'which, at best, did not do enough to prevent anti-Semitism and, at worst, could be seen to accept it.'

A legacy of Corbyn's four-and-a-half-years in charge of Sadiq Khan's beloved Labour is the anti-Semitism that flourishes in London, as the Israeli ambassador to Britain discovered earlier this month as she left an event at the LSE.

London has this century hosted many people who have made it their life's work to divide communities and incited hatred, and curiously Sadiq Khan has often had associations with them.

Take Louis Farrakhan, the notorious leader of the Nation of Islam, who, as the Guardian reported in 2001, has described Jews as 'bloodsuckers' and white people as 'devils'. That year Khan, then a lawyer, successfully overturned a 15-year ban that had excluded Farrakhan (who in 1984 described Adolf Hitler as 'a very great man') from entering Britain.

Khan called the verdict 'very brave and sensible'. Britain's Jewish community was less enthusiastic. Lord Janner, chairman of the Holocaust Educational Trust, described the decision as 'a sad day for all of us in Britain who work for good race relations...Farrakhan has stirred up racial tension, especially by his thoroughly nasty references to Jewish people'. Farrakhan's ban was subsequently upheld on appeal.

In 2004, Khan appeared to lobby for the hardline Islamic cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi to be allowed to enter Britain. David Winnick, a member of the home affairs select committee, asked Khan, who was then chair of the legal affairs committee of the Muslim Council of Britain, why Britain would want someone like Qaradawi in the country given he had once said: 'Oh God, deal with the usurpers and oppressors and tyrannical Jews. Oh God, deal with the plotters and rancorous crusaders'. Khan said he couldn't comment on the specific quote 'but there is a consensus among Islamic scholars that Mr al-Qaradawi is not the extremist that he is painted as being'.

Al-Qaradawi was allowed to enter Britain in 2004 but has been banned since 2008, the year before he declared that Jews deserved to be punished and Hitler had 'put them in their place'.

These dubious associations have all been reported over the years but Khan has been able to shrug them off. Obviously, Sadiq Khan hasn't an anti-Semitic bone in his body but, given some of these questionable decisions that Khan has made, perhaps to avoid accusations of rank hypocrisy he should not have passed comment on Zemmour.

Written byGavin Mortimer

Gavin Mortimer has lived in Paris for 12 years. His next book, The Phoney Major, a biography of SAS founder David Stirling, will be published by Constable next year.

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