Sadiq Khan has hit back at Jacob Rees-Mogg after being branded “Red Khan” over his new diversity scheme.
Rees-Mogg claimed London should be spared “loony left-wing wheezes” as he branded the city’s mayor “Red Khan”.
The Commons Leader said councils should be responsible for naming streets, with the MP for North East Somerset advising Sadiq Khan to not “interfere in things that aren’t his responsibility”.
His remarks came as Khan’s Commission for Diversity in the Public Realm was raised in the Commons.
Fifteen panellists have been selected for the commission, including art historian Aindrea Emelife and chairman of City Sikhs Jasvir Singh.
The homepage of the commission notes that London’s statues, plaques and street names “largely reflect a bygone era” and it seeks to improve diversity in public spaces.
But Conservative Andrew Rosindell (Romford) told the Commons: “The Leader of the House will be aware that the Mayor of London has announced a new taskforce for his commission on diversity in the public realm.
“Unsurprisingly it seems to be made up almost entirely of left-wing political activists, campaigners and celebrities instead of historians and experts.
“Do you share my concern about these unelected activists being given the power to interfere with London street names and monuments, and will he consider granting a debate in government time to discuss how we can defend our great capital city’s proud history and heritage?”
Rees-Mogg replied: “I absolutely agree with my honourable friend.
“It seems to me that the Mayor of London has replaced Red Ken as Red Khan.
“Who would have thought that you’d have a more left-wing leader of London than Ken Livingstone? And now we do, and Red Khan is he.
“It is quite wrong that these loony left-wing wheezes should be inflicted upon our great metropolis, and I think the mayor in his zeal is potentially treading on the toes of councils anyway – that councils have the right to name streets, by and large, not the Mayor of London, and I don’t think he should interfere in things that aren’t his responsibility.
“As I was saying on the honours list, we should celebrate and glory in our wonderful history and in the great heroes of our nation going back over centuries.”
Rees-Mogg earlier defended the honours system after weekend reports suggested that figures within Labour want to scrap knighthoods and all other royal gongs – and replace them with a “civic award”.
Labour officials distanced the party from proposals to abolish the UK’s honours system, insisting the report was commissioned by former leader Jeremy Corbyn and that current leader Sir Keir Starmer has not seen it and will not be taking it forward.
Rees-Mogg told MPs: “We do bear in mind that, whenever you look at a New Labour person and you scratch them, they are as red as can be underneath.”
Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle noted: “I don’t think we should scratch anybody.”
A spokesman for the Mayor of London said in a statement: “The mayor makes absolutely no apology for creating a commission to help ensure everyone can take pride in our city’s public landscape.
“London is one of the most richly diverse cities in the world, yet our public spaces don’t fully represent who we are and the values of tolerance and inclusion that lie at the heart of our city.
“By bringing together a range of people, through an open selection process, with proven leadership ability, expertise and influence, the commission will work with councils and partners to ensure we tell the full story of our capital.
“It’s a great pity that the minister seems to have no interest in that diverse history being told.”
The prime minister’s press secretary, Allegra Stratton, defended Rees-Mogg’s use of the word “loony”.
Asked about the remarks during a Westminster briefing, she said: “I don’t think it is as bad as some of the language I have seen and heard.”
She said she would not be “particularly upset” if such a term was used against her, when it was put to her that the term derives from the term “lunatic”.