Shaun Bailey: I’ll stop Al Quds Day march when I’m London mayor
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Shaun Bailey: I’ll stop Al Quds Day march when I’m London mayor

The frontrunner to oust Sadiq Khan has hit out at the “very uncomfortable” anti-Israel march through the capital each year.

Jack Mendel is the Online Editor at the Jewish News.

Shaun Bailey
Shaun Bailey

The Conservative hopeful to become London mayor has said stopping the annual Al Quds Day march would be a priority should he take over at City Hall in 2020.

The frontrunner to oust Sadiq Khan has hit out at the “very obviously uncomfortable” anti-Israel march through the capital each year, insisting he would “just stop it” if he was elected next year. “It’s unnecessary it doesn’t need to happen – it sends the wrong messages”, he said.

Due to a loophole in the law, each year anti-Israel demonstrators march through London waving Hezbollah flags; with stickers signifying support for the group’s political wing, which is legal in the UK. It’s military wing is banned.

Bailey said: “I don’t see personally the distance between the two wings of that party.

“They to me seem the same thing. If you ban one half it seems bizarre not to ban the other.”

Criticising Khan, who says it’s the job of the home secretary to ban Hezbollah – Bailey said “the mayor is right, he can’t ban it, but he absolutely has the power to stop it [the march]”.

Asked if It would be a priority, he said “yes. You just ban it.”

Moving onto antisemitism, Bailey said: “As a black person, I fully understand prejudice and racism in a personal way”, saying it is racial, but adding that London needs to “get round these issues by stopping trading on people’s differences.. I’m interested in what a community has to offer but also what it’s done traditionally as well.”

He also spoke of the “privilege” of visiting to the Jewish state with Conservative Friends of Israel, heralding the potential for bilateral trade ties. But, said he doesn’t “ think it has anything to do with Brexit.”

“When I went to Israel I had an absolute ball. It was a real eye-opener for me. I met a wide-range of Israeli people and I remember coming back to London and having those experiences to swap with the Jewish community”.

An engineering graduate, he said “there is a mutual benefit.. there’s been years of collaboration”, adding that “Israel is showing itself to be an absolute hub” of modern technology, business and innovation, citing startups Waze and Gett.

Born to Jamaican parents and growing up in social housing, he experienced unemployment and gangs in his youth – but his upbringing has imbued his drive to improve others’ lives in politics. He said “I come from a youth work background” and as a part of that role, had to have “conversations with people who weren’t politically correct, who were tough. But that’s how you get through things.”

He also said he regretted hurt caused over comments in 2005, where he claimed “people who are from Brent .. have been having Muslim and Hindu days off”, claiming it “robbed” Britain of its community, and society may “slip into a crime-riddled cesspool.”

He told Jewish News the comments were made “about a very specific thing to a very specific community”, and that “if people were hurt by it I regret hurting their feelings. I never set out to hurt anyone’s feelings.”

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