Sadiq Khan needs 24/7 protection ‘due to colour of his skin and god he worships’

The mayor of London has said it is “tough” to have 24/7 protection but that it is necessary because of the “colour of his skin and the god he worships”.

Sadiq Khan told a fringe event at Labour’s annual conference in Brighton that when he was first elected mayor in 2016 he rejected the suggestion of having police protection, but that the risks to those around him had persuaded him to relent.

It comes after Mr Khan was criticised in a newspaper article for travelling in a convoy of three vehicles to Battersea Park, which is four-and-a-half miles from his home, to take his dog Luna for a walk.

But he said that decision had been made on police advice.

Labour Party Conference 2021
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan speaks at the Labour Party conference in Brighton (Gareth Fuller/PA)

The mayor added: “That story leads to people then sending threatening emails.”

Mr Khan told the event: “When I was first elected, very shortly after, I was told that because of risk assessments I should have full police protection and I declined.”

But he said: “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 which 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.”

Mr Khan said he had 51 police officers on a team who kept him safe “around the clock” and he revealed his staff had been offered counselling to deal with the “vitriol” that had been levelled at him.

He said he had not spoken out about his level of protection before because he did not want to discourage others from going into politics.

But Mr Khan said he had been inspired to do so now by footballers who had pushed back against racist abuse.

He said: “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.”