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Sadiq Khan’s anti-Trump crusade is dull and reductive

The mayor of London has lost it

Perfectly nice man normally, Sadiq Khan, mayor of London. Ambitious as Lucifer, obviously, but unpompous and cheerful in his manner, which is always good. But on Trump, he’s lost it, hasn’t he? Yesterday he was complaining about Trump and other far-right leaders ‘using the same divisive tropes of fascists of the 20th century’. You don’t use the f-word lightly if you’re grown up. And you hesitate, if you’ve got any sense, before using it about a US president who’s here to commemorate the contribution of US forces to the D-Day landings. Trump was wholly unfazed by the observations. In a tweet, he replied: ‘He is a stone cold loser who should focus on crime in London, not me…’

Now Sadiq’s gone in again, saying, as the Evening Standard reports today, Mr Trump’s values are the ‘complete opposite of London’s values and the values of this country’. And as proof, he cites, in a video released by Elle magazine, the Trump take on abortion. ‘What we are seeing in the USA is a rolling back of the reproductive rights of women….What we can’t afford to do is return to backstreet abortions. What we can’t afford to see is a return to the situation in yester-decades where you had women having no control over their bodies’. He goes on: ‘we respect women and we think they are equal to men.’

Oh please. Give us a break. In the first place, as the president observed, Sadiq’s got other things to worry about. Does he need to suck up to London’s woke women by sounding off about abortion laws in Alabama? Then there’s the issue itself. As it happens, I’m anti-abortion myself, on the grounds that abortion always involves killing a pre-natal human being, and I’d be quite grateful if people like Sadiq could stop treating the issue as a single-sided matter of human rights…there are, self-evidently, human rights on both sides of the equation. Deciding the extent or the point at which the law should favor the fetus or the women is one of the great moral dividers of our day. Only a nitwit would reduce this to a fatuous slogan like ‘we respect women’.

But we’re not really talking about morals, are we? It’s more about signaling to a particular constituency – the teenage girls on anti-Trump demos, the Twitter fascists – that the mayor is on their side. It’s about the political equivalent of wearing a This is What a Feminist Looks Like T-shirt. It’s about laying down markers for his own ultimate ambitions in the Labour party. It’s about choosing the side which is more vocal and edgy and safe and with the program and siding inexorably with that. It’s about riding the anti-Trump wave, which in London, is the easiest course on earth. Would he really do all this were he leader of the Labour party, potential PM, which at one time looked possible?

There is an awful lot about the president’s policies not to like – his approach to the Palestinian issue and to Iran, to name just two – but he’s a guest of the nation and, for now, of London. Sadiq’s great pro-Brexit initiative was to launch a project to put up banners all over the capital saying, ‘London is Open’. What? Just to people he agrees with?

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