The gloves are off: Sadiq Khan launches latest attack on London mayoral election rival Zac Goldsmith

Lauren Fedor
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Khan hit out at Goldsmith's business credentials (Source: Getty)

The race to replace Boris Johnson as mayor of London is descending into a war of words, as Labour candidate Sadiq Khan launches his sharpest attack yet against Conservative rival Zac Goldsmith.

Khan will slam Goldsmith in a speech today at the Resolution Foundation think tank, saying that the Richmond Park MP “doesn’t get how to work with business.”

“You can’t take on the challenge of productivity if you don’t meet with business, if you don’t understand business and if you don’t take jobs and business seriously,” Khan said ahead of today’s speech. “And London’s business community faces a real choice.

“The Tory candidate, Zac Goldsmith, does not support London’s business community. He’s refusing to meet business leaders, he’s made anti-business statements through his career, and he’s opposed to airport expansion and Britain’s membership of the European Union, which is vital for London’s economy. He doesn’t have the experience, the values or the vision to deliver higher productivity for London.”

Goldsmith’s campaign fiercely rejected Khan’s comments, with a spokesperson telling City A.M.: “Zac is working with the government to improve London’s infrastructure so London’s businesses can grow.

“Sadiq Khan stood for election on a Labour manifesto that was most anti-business ever, and was proud to do so,” the spokesperson added. “He nominated Jeremy Corbyn for Labour leader who has called business ‘enemies’. He consistently voted against corporation tax cuts, which has made this country more competitive. He is in the pay of the unions, which is why he cannot possibly deliver for business.”

Khan is not the first Labour MP to criticise Goldsmith on his business record. Former shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna said in October that Goldsmith was a “threat to London jobs and businesses”.

“London’s business community says that staying in Europe is vital to their prosperity – but Goldsmith wants to take us out of the world’s largest market,” Umunna said. “He says he doesn’t trust big business.”

“And he’s opposed to any expansion in airport capacity, which London’s business community needs to keep up with our competitors.”

At the time, Goldsmith hit back at the attack, telling City A.M., “I don't think we’ve ever had a Labour party that is more hostile to business, big or small, than the Labour party of today.”

Goldsmith is a self-described eurosceptic, but has not said he will campaign for Britain to leave the European Union in the In/Out referendum. He is, however, ardently opposed to a third runway at Heathrow Airport, and has previously questioned the influence of big business on government policy.

More recently, he has been criticised for failing to meet with members of such industry groups as the City of London Corporation, TheCityUK and the Institute of Directors.

Today’s comments are the latest in an increasingly charged back-and-forth between the two-front-runners.

Earlier this week, Goldsmith accused his Labour opponent of “playing the race card” after sources close to Khan said a Goldsmith leaflet calling the Labour candidate “radical and divisive” had Islamophobic undertones.

Goldsmith told the BBC on Tuesday that he had been talking about the “extraordinarily radical” changes in Labour since Jeremy Corbyn was selected as the party’s leader in September.

“I think he is playing with fire. I don't think there is anything more divisive than playing the race card, when, clearly and unambiguously, it does not apply,” Goldsmith said.

“It’s very obvious that what I was referring to when I described him as a radical candidate as part of a radical process that has enveloped the Labour Party and taken our politics in an extraordinary direction.”

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