Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
  2. UK Politics
8 May 2017updated 09 Sep 2021 4:05pm

Sadiq Khan interview: “People are unclear about the Labour position on Brexit“

The Mayor of London says that the public know where he stands on Brexit but not where his party does.

By George Eaton

To mark the first anniversary of his election as Mayor of London, I caught up with Sadiq Khan last week (I profiled him at length for the NS last year). The Mayor was at County House in Beckenham, south London, to meet the first tenants to benefit from his London Living Rent.

When I spoke to Khan afterwards we discussed his first year at City Hall, Donald Trump and the general election. But it was on Brexit that the Mayor was most striking. Though Khan praised shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer for recognising “the importance of privileged access to a single market”, he delivered a frank assessment of Labour’s standing.

“There is an issue on the doorstep, which is people are unclear about the Labour position [on Brexit] nationally,” he told me. “Everyone’s clear about my position in London, you know where you stand with the Tories – extreme hard Brexit – you know where you stand with the Lib Dems: they wish the referendum had never happened and want a second one. People are less clear about Labour’s position nationally.”

Khan’s admission that the public didn’t know where Labour stands on the issue of the day was a damning verdict from the party’s most senior elected politician (and its most popular one). But in an attempt to change that, the Mayor will be campaigning with Starmer (who he has known since their legal days) throughout the campaign. Khan said: “For too long voters were not clear about where Labour stood on Brexit, but I’m really pleased Keir’s recent interventions have clarified our position.

“We are staunchly opposed to the extreme ‘hard Brexit’ the Tories want to lead us into, and a Labour government would fight to retain access to the single market and give a cast-iron guarantee to those EU citizens already living here that they are allow to stay after Brexit.

Select and enter your email address Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
I consent to New Statesman Media Group collecting my details provided via this form in accordance with the Privacy Policy
THANK YOU

“I look forward to working with Keir over the coming weeks to make sure voters know that a vote for Labour is Britain’s last chance to stop the Tories’ extreme ‘hard Brexit’.”

Content from our partners
Why ports are the gateway to growth
We are living longer than our predecessors – policy must catch up
Getting Britain building

I also asked Khan whether, like Tony Blair, he regarded a Conservative election victory as inevitable. “The polls show a massive lead for the Conservative Party, that’s the reason Theresa May called an election,” he said. “She thinks she can win a massive majority. If she wins a massive majority it means that she can negotiate an extreme hard Brexit, impose further cuts to our police and the NHS.” In acknowledgment of Labour and Corbyn’s parlous poll ratings, he added: “Even if you’re not doing it with a huge amount of enthusiasm, even if you’re not necessarily inspired by the Labour Party, I’d encourage you to vote Labour because a Labour government is far better for you and your family and future generations than this Conservative government.”

Update: Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron has responded to Khan’s comments. He said: “Sadiq has admitted what has been abundantly clear. Labour voted with the Conservatives for a hard Brexit, out of the single market, and to deny the people a say on the final deal.

“Only the Liberal Democrats are fighting to stay in the Single Market and for the rights of EU citizens to remain in their jobs and homes –  and only we are committing to give people, not politicians, the final say on the Brexit deal.”

The full interview will appear in this week’s New Statesman