While the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) has virtually imploded since the Leave vote announced on Friday morning, one senior Labour figure has reacted with a calm head and shown real leadership: Sadiq Khan.
From emphasising that Europeans remain welcome in London, to playing up the close ties that will continue to bind London to neighbouring European capitals such as Paris, Khan has impressed with his response to a result that a clear majority in his city voted against.
But in one area in particular, the leadership being shown by Khan is essential: protecting the Single Market access and passporting rights that are so vital to London’s vast financial services industry. “While I respect the country’s decision to vote to leave the EU, my job as mayor is now to stand up for and protect the interests of London, and that includes the financial sector,” he told City AM.
The Mayor has also made clear that he plans to speak to each of the candidates that emerge for the Conservative leadership to ask them how they will ensure the UK remains in the Single Market. If they do not, this will mean “without a doubt, businesses deciding to leave London and go elsewhere”, he said on Tuesday.
In this mission, Khan has found an unlikely ally in Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Like Khan, Sturgeon leads a part of the UK that voted overwhelmingly to Remain and they have, in Sturgeon’s words, a “shared interest…in protecting our relationship with Europe”.
For Sturgeon the ultimate destination in this regard may be to pursue a second independence referendum and an independent Scotland as a full member state in its own right. For Khan, while he likes the idea of a London city state, he is “not seriously talking about independence”. He is however demanding more autonomy for the capital and his asks are sure to include the opportunity for London to secure a relationship with the EU which protects the particular interests of the capital.
The latest move by Khan is the appointment of a new deputy mayor for business, Rajesh Agrawal, whose first job will be to help reassure the City and safeguard jobs while negotiations are ongoing. Agrawal has grown two financial businesses internationally and has an estimated fortune of £90m.
These astute moves by Khan have impressed many in the City and given an early boost to his claims to be “the most pro-business Mayor London has ever had”. Unusually perhaps for a Labour politician in recent months, Khan will find that much of the business community is right behind him.
At Cicero we are reaching out to the Mayor of London to offer him a platform to speak with business. For Cicero our biggest priority is to ensure our clients can talk to policymakers to reinforce the need for continued Single Market access.