Cameron called 'racist' after accusing Sadiq Khan over links to IS supporter


David Cameron has sparked a furious row over the contest for the London mayoralty after he accused Labour candidate Sadiq Khan of sharing a platform with an Islamic "extremist".

Angry Labour MPs accused Mr Cameron of racism during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons as he detailed Mr Khan's nine appearances alongside Sulaiman Ghani, who he said was a supporter of the Islamic State terror group.

A senior Labour source later accused the Prime Minister of "demeaning his office", while Mr Khan himself said he was "disappointed" Mr Cameron had chosen to join a "dog whistling" campaign by London Tories.

Mr Khan, who is bookmakers' favourite to replace Boris Johnson at City Hall in the May 5 election, has faced repeated claims that he has given the oxygen of publicity to extremist individuals by appearing alongside them, though Conservative candidate Zac Goldsmith stressed he does not accuse his rival personally of extremism.

The Labour candidate told a BBC debate earlier this week that his work as a human rights lawyer and ex-chair of Liberty had brought him into contact with extremists, adding: "I regret giving the impression I subscribe to their views. I have been quite clear that I find their views abhorrent."

Mr Cameron brought the row to the floor of the Commons in response to a backbench question.

"If we are going to condemn not just violent extremism but also the extremism that seeks to justify violence in any way, it is very important that we do not back these people and that we do not appear on platforms with them," the Prime Minister said.

The PM was cut off by loud roars and calls of "racist" from the Labour benches, as he said he was "concerned about Labour's candidate for mayor of London", who he said had appeared on a platform "again and again" with Mr Ghani.

As Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn branded the comments "disgraceful", Mr Cameron continued: "This man supports IS... Anyone can make a mistake about who they appear on a platform with. We're not always responsible for what our political opponents say, but if you do it time after time after time, it is right to question your judgement."

Labour MP Chuka Umunna accused the PM of joining "Zac Goldsmith's Islamophobic campaign", tweeting: "Utterly disgraceful. The PM thinks it is a crime for Sadiq Khan to be a Muslim and have been a human rights lawyer."

And a senior Labour spokesman said: "I think it demeans the office of the Prime Minister to repeat some of these smears. Sadiq has been very strong on issues around terrorism.

"The people of London will choose the mayor they want. Sadiq is talking about the issues that people in London care about."

Mr Khan said: "The Tories are running a nasty, dog-whistling campaign that is designed to divide London's communities. I'm disappointed that the Prime Minister has today joined in.

"As mayor, I will be the British Muslim who takes the fight to the extremists.

"I will keep focusing on keeping Londoners safe, and my positive vision for London's future - most importantly fixing the Tory housing crisis."

A senior Downing Street source said Tooting imam Mr Ghani had made a speech on the night of the Paris terror attacks in which he called for the establishment of an Islamic state and had repeatedly called for women to be subservient to men.

The source dismissed accusations of racism as "complete nonsense", adding: "The Prime Minister makes absolutely no apology for raising very serious questions about the people Sadiq Khan has chosen to share a platform with.

"It's a perfectly legitimate thing to do and to try to brand that racism does a disservice to the Labour Party."

Mr Ghani's Facebook page shows a photograph of him with Mr Goldsmith, and reports suggest he has also spoken at meetings in support of Guantanamo detainee Shaker Aamer also attended by Conservative MP Jane Ellison.

But the Downing Street source said: "It is not a question of sharing a platform once or twice, it is on nine separate occasions."

Tooting MP Mr Khan heard about Mr Cameron's comments during an interview by BBC Radio 2's Jeremy Vine.

He told Vine: "I'm not sure what David Cameron is referring to. I've never hidden from the fact that I was a human rights lawyer... I have acted for some pretty unsavoury guys whether charged with a criminal offence or acting for people in other walks, and I've never hidden that, I've actually talked about that.

"That gives me an insight which other candidates don't have. I've never run away from my faith. As I said, the vast, vast, vast majority of Muslims are peaceful and law-abiding and love our way of life."

Labour's former shadow cabinet member Rachel Reeves accused the Prime Minister of descending into "gutter politics".

She told BBC Radio 4's World at One: "The insinuation that Sadiq Khan is somehow a friend of Isis is beyond contempt. He is a man of the utmost integrity. He has taken on extremism in the Islamic community and on many occasions he has fallen out with leaders in the Islamic community.

"Sadiq Khan has always spoken out against intolerance and against extremism."

But Commons Leader Chris Grayling insisted it was "absolutely proper" for Mr Cameron to raise the issue.

"It is nothing to do with Islamophobia," said Mr Grayling. "There are some fantastic people in the Islamic community in London who make a real difference to our capital city and they would have no truck either with people who support Isis. I think it is absolutely proper that this issue is highlighted.

"The question is about judgment, about the people Sadiq surrounds himself with. We have seen a number of issues in recent weeks where there is this question mark."