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Sadiq Khan calls Tories unpatriotic for ‘trying to do London down’

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Sadiq Khan has called the Conservatives’ treatment of London “unpatriotic” as he accused the government of putting obstacles in his way every day of his eight years running the capital.

The London mayor accused the Tories of “trying to do us down” at every opportunity for political reasons in long-running battles over police funding, cuts to London’s transport budget and in planning decisions.

In an interview with the Guardian, Khan said he hoped for a better working relationship with a Labour government despite differences of opinion on key issues including Brexit and rent controls.

“On most issues I agree with the Labour party, but on some issues I disagree,” he said. “I’m not looking for Keir [Starmer] or Rachel [Reeves] to write me a blank cheque but the possibility of them not putting obstacles in my way every day, as the current lot have done, is in itself just refreshing.

“The amount of energy we spend dealing with Tory attacks which are unnecessary is ridiculous. We’re the capital city. I think it’s unpatriotic. I’ve been desperate to have those conversations over the past eight years. But at every stage possible they’ve tried to do us down, whether it’s cuts to the police, cuts to TfL, interfering with planning applications on affordable housing, not taking any London businesses with them on trade delegations.”

Khan, who is up for re-election on Thursday for a historic third term, said the Tory candidate, Susan Hall, was the most “dangerous” Conservative opponent he had faced after it emerged she had joined a Facebook group containing Islamophobic hate speech and abusive comments about him.

“She is somebody who has publicly supported Trump, liked Enoch Powell, cheered Liz Truss’s budget. If she wins on Thursday, in this country Suella Braverman, Lee Anderson, Tommy Robinson will be cheering her on,” he said. “Across the globe, the likes of Donald Trump, Viktor Orbán and Marine Le Pen may not have heard of her but when they discover that she has defeated me and all I stand for, they’ll be cheering her as well.”

Khan suggested the Conservative party was “testing” whether their tactics in London – a lunge to the right with closed Facebook groups, YouTube and Instagram attack ads, and paid direct mail – could be used at the general election.

He defended UK Labour’s focus on winning back voters it lost in the 2019 general election wipeout even though it could cost him some progressive support, after the party faced some internal unrest over the dominant use of the union flag in campaign material.

“Keir has got to be the prime minister for all the country. There mustn’t be any no-go areas for the Labour party across the country,” he said. “We Londoners are very patriotic, we do love the flag, I’m not worried about that at all.

“The choice at the next election isn’t between Keir Starmer and somebody more progressive. It’s a choice between Keir and Rishi Sunak. I’m happy to explain to people who normally vote Lib Dem or Greens that this is a two-horse race, just like in London, [where] only Susan Hall or I can win.”

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However, he admitted he was “frustrated” as a leading remainer by Starmer’s commitment to stick with Brexit, although he said he understood the Labour leader would need to be prime minister for “all the country”. He rejected suggestions that Labour’s focus on winning back “red wall” voters meant it could neglect the capital.

“The way to make our country equal should not be to make London poorer. It’s not a zero-sum game,” he said. “Keir and Rachel get that it’s not us versus the rest of the country, it’s us and the rest of the country.”

Khan denied the outcome of the London race was a fait accompli even though the polls have given him a consistently strong lead over Hall, with YouGov this week putting him 22 points ahead.

“People said Scotland was a Labour country, we’ve all seen how that ended,” he said. “I remember being told by Ken Livingstone’s team in 2008 that there wasn’t a cat in hell’s chance of Boris Johnson winning. We know how that movie ended.”

The mayoral voting system has changed to first past the post, meaning Khan will no longer benefit from Green and Lib Dem second-preference votes, while he suggested that 15% of Londoners, or about 900,000 people, did not have the photo ID they now required to cast their vote.

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