Sadiq Khan has spoken movingly about needing round the clock police protection because of “the colour of his skin and the god he worships.”
The London Mayor said he was given the confidence to talk about the threats and vitriol he receives for the first time after seeing the response to Marcus Rashford and the England team speaking out about racism.
Speaking at Labour Party Conference, he revealed he rejected a police protection detail when he was first elected Mayor of London, because he likes using the tube and walking around in the capital.
But the “game changer”, he said, was when officers told his wife and chief of staff that his family and members of staff would be at risk if he didn’t accept the 15-strong Metropolitan Police detail who protects him day or night.
“You can’t do anything spontaneously, for obvious reasons.” he told a fringe event hosted by the New Statesman magazine. “Riding a bike to work, which is something I do often, is different for me than it would be for you. Using the tube, which I do is different for me than it is for you.
“Walking my dog in the park is different for me than it is for you. “
He said going for a jog was also difficult, but that he "always beats" his security detail when he goes running.
He added: ”It's hard. It's really hard. It's hard for my family. Having sniffer dogs in your house is not fun. Not being able to answer the door is not great. It's not fun. It's hard.
“And my staff - I have the best staff in the world - but to have to give your staff counselling because of the vitriol directed at me that they've got to read from letters, emails, it's horrible. It's tough.”
He went on: "The game changer for me was when the police spoke to my chief of staff and my wife to try and persuade me to accept.
"And the point they made was I may reject it, but do I realise that because of me, those who are with me may be at risk - whether it's my wife and kids, or whether it's my staff who I work with.
"And that was the reason why I said yes in the end, because I've got a duty of care to my staff. I love my family, I love my staff too by the way."
He said it was “upsetting” to be criticised in the media for driving to a park, on police advice, to walk his dog.
But he has hesitated to speak out about the abuse and threats he and his team receive, because he fears it might prevent other people of colour standing for office.
“Imagine being my wife or my daughters or my mum. It's not nice,” he said.
“And me saying it comes with the package is discouraging someone running to be the mayor. So I don't talk about it....it's probably the first time I've talked about it. I might get emotional.”
The London Mayor said he had been given the confidence to speak out. by England’s football team speaking out against racism in the Euro 2020 tournament.
“The way Marcus Rashford, Sancho, Saka, have talked about it, and the response they've received has given me so much hope.
“And it's given me confidence to talk about it myself, not because I'm playing the victim card or the race card or the muslim card, but because people need to know.”
He added: “I'm not going to allow these racists and these Islamophobes to intimidate me, and I'll never bow to them.
“The mayor of the greatest city in the world needs protection 24 hours a day seven days a week because of the colour of his skin and the god he worships. That can't be right.”Read More Read More