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Why is Sadiq Khan giving Americans his views on the US election?

19 September 2016

10:35 AM

19 September 2016

10:35 AM

‘It’s important for those of us who are foreigners to stay out of the US elections.’ So said the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, with due propriety during his visit to America last week. Unfortunately he then added: ‘I hope that the best candidate wins and I hope she does win with a stomping majority.’

Given the febrile state of US politics, I’m sure that this cringe-worthy endorsement is precisely the sort of intervention that Clinton needs in order to get her faltering campaign back on track. And perhaps the lord mayor of, say, Wandsworth could polish his chain of office and head to Paris to advise the French on how to cast their votes in next year’s presidential campaign? It would do about as much good and a lot less harm.

For a start – regardless of what floating voters in the US might think about Sadiq Khan, if they think anything – my experience of Americans is that they like being told what to do by foreigners about as much as we do. How many more Leave votes did President Obama’s clumsy intervention in the EU referendum generate this summer? Did it not have precisely the opposite effect from that which he intended? And that was President Obama, a man who has spent eight years as the leader of the free world, having come to power after a landslide and who, let’s not forget, has enjoyed moments of being able to walk on political water. And not in other words Sadiq Khan, who was elected to city hall after second preference votes were counted, following one of the most forgettable elections in the entire history of democracy.

So if nothing else Khan’s American intervention – and barrage against Donald Trump – does invite questions about his political judgement. If he is a sincere supporter of Hillary’s, which we have no reason to doubt, then why on earth does he think sharing his views on the matter will help her one iota. He must know better than most that it will do the reverse. Perversely, she would be far better off receiving the endorsement of Nigel Farage.

Which means that the London mayor is basically calculating – and probably rightly so – that since hardly anyone knows who he is in the United States anyway, and of those that do fewer still will care, his comments will largely disappear without trace. Except where they really count, which is over here.

After all, Khan doubtlessly looks with keen interest at his predecessor Boris Johnson’s elevation from the glass testicle overlooking the Thames to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on Whitehall – and has similar if not grander designs for himself. And why not? Given the state of the Labour party under Jeremy Corbyn, it’s probably a dream worth having.

However, I’m sure most Londoners would much rather have their mayor back in London, doing his job of running the city, rather than irritating Americans with his voter recommendations. Londoners would much rather that Khan was filling the potholes that riddle London’s roads – personally with a shovel if needs be – or building affordable houses, than getting cuddles from Justin Trudeau, the hipster prime minister of Canada, on a six-day tour of North America at the taxpayers’ expense.

Khan says his trip is about letting Americans know that post-Brexit London is open for business: but they know that already. The US is already one of the biggest investors in London business and property, and their tourists aren’t slackening either. If anything, Khan’s intervention in the US presidential race is a sure-fire way to annoy Americans. Unless, of course, his real intention is to help Trump get elected, in which case he’s going about it the right way.

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