Sadiq Khan, the Labour Party’s candidate for the London mayoral election, wants Londoners to know that he is very different from party leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Speaking on the BBC’s Today Programme on Monday, Khan claimed that he was not going to spend the three months before May’s election differentiating himself from Corbyn — but he ended up spending much of the interview doing just that.
Khan was one of just 35 MPs who nominated Corbyn for the Labour leadership, so has found himself in the unusual position of having political capital with Corbyn’s supporters while promoting policies that many of them would disagree with. For instance, Kahn has told Business Insider that he wants to be the pro-business mayor London has never had and told the Spectator magazine that it’s a good thing London has so many billionaires.
When he was asked whether he was Corbyn’s “man in London,” Khan replied by saying that he is his own man. And when Khan was asked whether he supported Corbyn’s policies he gave a non-committal answer.
Here’s how the exchange went.
BBC: You’re also a man who nominated Jeremy Corbyn to be leader of the Labour party, so you support him and what he wants to do?
Khan: Well I’m sure if Jeremy Corbyn was here, and he’s not, I am, he would say that he also wants to be pro-business.
Khan continued to distance himself from Corbyn’s policies throughout the interview, telling the BBC’s Sarah Montague that he had a “newsflash” for her: Corbyn isn’t on the mayoral election ballot paper.
BBC: To what extent do you sign up to the policies that are being put forward by Jeremy Corbyn?
Khan: Let me give you a newsflash, Jeremy Corbyn is not on the ballot paper in the May mayoral elections, nor is David Cameron, I am.
Khan also gave specific examples of how he differs from Corbyn, saying that he is against a windfall tax on banks and even going out of his way to point out that unlike Corbyn, he supports a third runway at Gatwick Airport
BBC: Do you support, for example, his proposal for a windfall tax on banks?
Khan: No I don’t. Let me give you other examples of why I think it’s important for me to be my own person … I’m against for example a new runway at Heathrow, but unlike Jeremy Corbyn I’m very much in favour of a new runway at Gatwick Airport because I see the benefits of a increase in aviation capacity to jobs and growth.
It’s not unusual for London mayoral candidates to want to portray themselves as individuals, not controlled by their party. The current mayor of London Boris Johnson has frequently disagreed with David Cameron — Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party. But it’s telling that Khan doesn’t feel able to say he signs up to Corbyn’s policies and is using phrases like “I am my own man”. Corbyn might have the support of Labour’s membership, but it doesn’t look like Kahn is willing to bank on him being a vote winner with the public.
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