Sadiq Khan wants to talk about the B-word. Or rather, he wishes Keir Starmer would.
Khan’s policy of expanding London’s Ultra-Low Emission Zones (ULEZ) was blamed by Labour’s leader for their failure to overhaul the Conservatives in Uxbridge and Ruislip last week. One Starmer loyalist even branded it “Uloss”.
Earlier this week, it was announced that the mayor would “rethink” the policy and now he has indicated he wants Sir Keir to do the same with a policy of his own. Never mind the by-election fallout, Khan wants Labour’s attention turned to Brexit.
In a piece published by the New York Times, Khan pondered why so many politicians were so quiet about Brexit. “I’m frustrated that no one is talking about it,” he said, adding that there was an “omertà” on the subject. Then, in a swipe at Starmer, he said that he was “one of the few Labour Party leaders eager to discuss the consequences of leaving the EU.”
This isn’t the first time that Khan’s called for an end to the Brexit-shaped elephant in the room. In January, he called for the government to stop denying the “immense damage” that Britain’s departure from the bloc has caused. In a speech to London’s business leaders, he stated: “Ministers seem to have developed selective amnesia when it comes to one of the root causes of our problems. Brexit can’t be airbrushed out of history or the consequences wished away.”
In contrast, Starmer has held the position that rejoining the EU was not an option, confirmed by the announcement of his “make Brexit work” policy in July. Khan’s stance also hasn’t shifted, instead, he has just altered his aim from the government to within his own party.
Clashes over the EU within Labour are set to continue and, for now, at least, Rishi Sunak can perhaps breathe a small sign of relief that the phrase “civil war” is, for once, being tossed around without referring to the Tories.