Sadiq Khan: I turned to Israel for advice on persuading Londoners to get vaccine
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Sadiq Khan: I turned to Israel for advice on persuading Londoners to get vaccine

EXCLUSIVE: Mayor of London, who is seeking re-election in May, pledges he will 'absolutely' visit the Jewish state in his second term should he win another four years in City Hall

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Sadiq Khan during a walk-a-bout in Golders Green as he seeks re-election.
Sadiq Khan during a walk-a-bout in Golders Green as he seeks re-election.

Sadiq Khan has revealed he regularly turned to advice from Israel over the past few months on how to encourage Londoners to overcome concerns about having the Covid-19 vaccine.

Touring the streets of Golders Green as he campaigned for a second term in office as London Mayor, Khan heaped praise on his counterpart in Tel Aviv, Ron Huldai and revealed they had spoken “quite a lot” during the pandemic.

“What Israel did with what is called vaccine hesitancy – they were light years ahead,” he told Jewish News.

“We were speaking to them regularly on how you bust the myths. What Israel recognised was that you have got to educate people.

“They explained very well and normalised and educated and explained if you want to get back to reality vaccines are the way out.

“Initiatives like the gym for a jab scheme where you got to go to the gym if you had the vaccine, that was such a clever way to deal with those who were hesitant to get vaccinated.”

With such close working relations with Israel, Khan was questioned on why he had not yet kept a promise made to Jewish News in 2018 that he was ready to visit the country with a delegation “soon.”

Sadiq Khan during a walk-a-bout in Golders Green as he seeks re-election.

Asked if could definitely pledge to visit Israel if elected for a second term on May 6, he said: “I can, absolutely.”

He added:”If I am re-elected I intend to go to Israel. There is a lot of work we are already doing in fintech, with innovation.

“Whenever I speak with the Mayor of Tel Aviv I am very excited about the work that is taking place there.

If I am re-elected I intend to go to Israel. There is a lot of work we are already doing in fintech, with innovation

“There is an obvious partnership,  I want to see us building on that. In term two, I will bang the drum for London in Israel.”

Khan accepted that some voters amongst the capital’s Jewish community could still not bring themselves to accept that his party Labour were doing enough to tackle antisemitism, even under Keir Starmer’s leadership.

He said it was to Starmer’s “credit” that he had implemented the recommendations of the Equality and Human Rights Commission report into his party “in full and straight away” and that he had suspended Jeremy Corbyn over his refusal to apologise for his criticism of the watchdog’s assessment of his handling of antisemitism.

Khan then called for Labour to “redouble our efforts to try to persuade” the likes of former MP Luciana Berger that “we have changed.”

Meeting locals in Golders Green, Sadiq Khan was greeted enthusiastically by many people

He said:”I think people such as Luciana, and Louise Ellman,  still needed to be persuaded.

“It is really important that we redouble our efforts to persuade them the party has changed under Keir.”

Khan said he was fighting the election on a manifesto that promised to protect those who have lost jobs in the pandemic.

He also said Covid had illustrated the inequalities that continued to exist in London across every community.

What Israel did with what is called vaccine hesitancy – they were light years ahead

Pointing to the “good example” of the Stamford Hill Charedi community he said: “What Stamford Hill showed was that families living in multi-generational households, through no fault of them own – they were passing the virus on.

“It is important to understand the consequences of over- crowding and to support the communities.

“One of the ways is through homes that adults and children can move in to, which are affordable.

“In Stamford Hill , for example, we were seeing three generations in one household.

“For some that is fine, but some do it because they have no choice to do so. That’s why it is really important to support those families.”

Venturing into familiar Golders Green establishments such as Carmelis Bakery,  the Head Room Cafe, and the restaurant Pita, Khan was greeted enthusiastically by nearly all.

Sadiq Khan during a walk-a-bout in Golders Green as he seeks re-election.

He was joined on the tour by senior figures from the Jewish Labour Movement including national chair Mike Katz, London chair Neil Nerva, National Vice Chair Sarah Sackman, and the Barnet Labour candidate Anne Clarke.

Outside Pita he told two people he was in favour of vaccine passports to gain entry to shops and venues, but only if they did not place “an additional burden on small businesses.”

He added:”I think more work needs to be done on them.”

Only one man on the street sought to criticise him over claims he had left a hole in the finances of Transport for London, a claim made recently by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Khan sought to counter the attack, explaining the impact of the pandemic on travel, and the government’s offer of a loan.

The man said he would not be voting for Khan, but when asked who he would be voting for he failed to give an answer.

Khan told Jewish News he wanted to be seen as a mayor who would like after the interests of all Londoners and who recognised the contribution made to it by the Jewish community.

Sadiq Khan in Hackney attending the third mass-vaccination event for the strictly-orthodox community

“One of the reasons why we are one of the greatest cities in the world is because of the contribution made by Jewish Londoners – economically, socially and culturally,” he said.

Khan refused to criticise his rival Tory candidate Shaun Bailey’s attempts to win over the community, saying he believed all politicians should attempt to reach out to them.

But he said he hoped recognition would be there for his work with the Jewish community over the past five years.

He said he received advice on the both the “successes” and the “challenges” faced by the community from the “many” Jewish faces in his team.

Help perform the greatest mitzvah: save a life

While life in Israel has returned to normal and hopes are high that Britain is set for a summer without restrictions thanks to vaccines, for billions around the world there is no such imminent light at the end of the tunnel. In the majority of countries around the globe, particularly the poorest, the vaccine rollout has barely kicked off.

That's why Jewish News, the leading source of news and opinion for the entire UK community, is throwing its full weight behind UNICEF’s VaccinAid campaign by using this platform usually reserved for encouraging donations towards our own journalism to instead urge our readers around the globe to perform the greatest mitzvah: saving a life.

We have never before done this for any charity fundraiser but it's hard to recall a campaign that affects so many people, and indeed an entire planet aching for a return to normality. Just like the Chief Rabbi and Rachel Riley, we hope to boost the mission to deliver two billion vaccines, 165 million treatments and 900 million test kits around the world by the end of this year.

Please donate as much as you can, in the spirit of the Talmudic sages: “to save one life is to save the world entire”

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