If you cast your mind back to Tuesday 21st June 2016, two days before the referendum on leaving the EU, you might recall watching a debate at Wembley at which the new Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said the following:
“If we as a country decide to quit then we’re out for good. There’s no going back.”
Although this was clearly meant as a warning – a classic piece of Project Fear, designed to scare viewers into voting to stick to the status quo – it was a sentiment that had been expressed by many on both sides of the referendum divide during the campaign. Once we cast our votes that would be that. We’d have made a decision, we’d honour the result and then we’d move on.
Two days later 17,410,742 people, including 1,513,232 Londoners, voted to leave the EU.
This must have been a disappointment for the new Mayor – who, 7 weeks earlier, had received the votes of 364,516 fewer Londoners in winning his election – but at first he reacted reasonably. In July 2016 – a few weeks after the Referendum – Sadiq Khan made the very reasonable point that “the establishment needs to respect the result”.
When I was elected to the London Assembly, I did not expect discussing Brexit to be part of my job. That is not to say that I don’t think it’s important, or that as a proud Brexiteer I was unaware of the exciting opportunities for London and for the UK once we have left. But the London Assembly exists to scrutinise the Mayor of London and his policies, so given that the Mayor has absolutely no role in the delivery of Brexit and given that the Mayor has an important job to do in terms of delivering on transport, policing and housing, I very much assumed that that was where Sadiq Khan’s focus would be.
It’s certainly where his focus should be. However, unfortunately, as Londoners have discovered to their cost, Sadiq Khan has been a terrible Mayor. He’s broken promise after promise, presiding over the destruction of Transport for London’s finances, failing to properly scrutinise Crossrail, slashing bus routes, cancelling new trains for the Northern and Jubilee Lines, overseeing a 12% increase in crime including rocketing incidents of knife crime and acid attacks, and completely and utterly failing to build the homes that London needs.
As the Mayor’s failings have mounted up, he’s moved ever further from his original position of respecting the referendum. By 26th October this year, London’s Mayor was proudly announcing that on a trip to Brussels he had told Michel Barnier: “Listen, you need to start preparing for the possibility of extending article 50 because if that is the case we will need time to have a [second] referendum.”
Much has been written elsewhere on just how damaging it has been to see senior politicians seek to overturn the biggest popular vote in UK history. It’s easy to see why Sadiq Khan would prefer to play at foreign policy rather than stick to the day job, but it’s grossly irresponsible. Londoners – and, indeed, all British citizens – deserve so much better.
Susan Hall is a Conservative Member of the London Assembly and and Councillor in Harrow. Follow her on twitter: @councillorsuzie