Now a Labour politician is ‘jostled’ and ‘prevented from speaking’ and Tories are on the defensive

Sadiq Khan's experience of xenophobic attitudes
Sam Woolfe

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan recently visited Waltham Forest to speak to voters. Conservative activists protested and allegedly disrupted the event. Labour MP Stella Creasy claims they were “jostling him and preventing him speaking to voters”. A local man, meanwhile, reportedly asked Khan xenophobic questions.

“Disappointing” comments

The Mayor of London claims that Tory activists asked him these “disappointing” questions. But they say otherwise. As E17 Conservatives replied:

Creasy repeated Khan’s claim:

Local residents and Conservative campaigners were angered by the fact they would have to pay the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) charge of £12.50 to drive to their local hospital. This is part of Khan’s plan to crack down on London’s deadly air pollution.

Tory councillor Emma Best also denied that E17 Conservatives had anything to do with the derogatory remarks:

Creasy accepts she may be mistaken about whether the man making the xenophobic comments was one of the Tory activists. But she adds:

Chingford councillor Andy Hemsted chimed in. While it’s not clear if Tory activists were guilty of the “jostling” involved, Hemsted does appear to justify it, as Creasy says.

Xenophobia in the UK

Regardless of who directed the comments at Khan, the point is that someone thought they were acceptable questions to ask the Mayor.

A report [pdf] titled Discrimination in the EU in 2015 highlights that the UK, by some measures, is one of the least racist countries in Europe. British people were surveyed about whether they would feel comfortable with their sons or daughters being in a relationship with a Black, Asian, or Jewish partner. And 81% [p23], 80% [p23], and 81% [p36] respectively said they would. The most accepting country by this measure was Sweden, where the figures were 89% [p23], 92% [p23], and 87% [p36].

Only 69% [p35] of parents surveyed in both Sweden and the UK said they would be comfortable with their children dating a Muslim. And these were the most accepting countries overall.

In Hull, a newly opened Asian clothing store was recently vandalised. The UK, in general, has been seeing a rise in hate crimes against ethnic minorities.

The EU report may indicate that the UK has less of a problem with racism than other countries in Europe. But this doesn’t mean it isn’t a big issue – both in the UK and in more tolerant European countries. And Khan’s recent experience in Chingford shows how xenophobic attitudes can be subtle but still very troubling.

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