Mayor calls for an end to politics of division following Trump victory

14 November 2016
  • Mayor speaks out as he convenes city leaders and Mayors from across Europe at landmark Social Integration Conference at City Hall
  • Better social integration in London will lead to a healthier, safer and more prosperous city, argues Sadiq

With Donald Trump on his way to the White House, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, called for uniting communities to be put top of the political agenda at a time when more and more people are feeling left behind, disconnected and ignored.

The US election, following on from the EU referendum, has shown how fractious relations between communities across the western world have become with hundreds of millions feeling estranged from the political debate.

At a landmark Social Integration Conference at City Hall today, Sadiq Khan said the politics of division must not spread to diverse cities like London, and urged city leaders ‘to build bridges instead of walls’ to help communities live better together.

Failure to do so risked losing the argument to 'the divisive political forces gaining pace in many countries across Europe and the world’, he warned.

Sadiq Khan was opening the conference, the first of its kind at City Hall, bringing together mayors from around the UK and Europe, the deputy mayor of New York, and social policy experts including Matthew Ryder, London's Deputy Mayor for Social Integration.

The Mayor stressed that the less integrated societies are, the greater the economic and social costs. He outlined how failure to address tensions across communities impedes life chances and holds back economic growth and highlighted how improving integration leads to increased social mobility, as well as a reduction in unemployment.

In the UK, it is estimated that a lack of social integration costs the economy approximately £6 billion. Increasingly clear evidence has also shown that a failure to promote social integration increases the fear of crime, encourages prejudice, damages health, restricts social mobility and increases unemployment.

The Mayor also warned that taking a hands-off approach, and pretending that integration is not a problem ‘for fear of losing the argument to the divisive political forces gaining pace in many countries across Europe and the world’ simply will not work.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “We have seen major political upheaval around the world in recent months, with the EU referendum here in the UK and the presidential election in the US.

“This has shown how politics is becoming more and more polarised with whole communities in cities across the world feeling increasingly disconnected and estranged from national politics. That’s why now, more than ever, we need to build a strong sense of social solidarity within our cities – a renewed sense that we are united as neighbours and citizens.  

“We need to see real leadership in cities across around the world if we are to avoid communities becoming increasingly divided. Promoting social integration means ensuring that people of different faiths, ethnicities, social backgrounds and generations don’t just tolerate one another or live side-by-side, but actually meet and mix with one another and forge relationships as friends and neighbours, as well as citizens.  We know that when this happens, trust grows, communities flourish and become more productive, healthier and, ultimately, more prosperous for everyone.”

Studies have found that meaningfully engaging with someone from a different ethnicity, social background or age group makes people more likely not just to view that particular group positively, but to put more faith in people as a whole.  

From the outset of his term, the Mayor pledged to make improving social integration in London one of his ‘core’ priorities over the next four years. In September, the Mayor appointed Deputy Mayor for Social Integration, Social Mobility and Community Engagement Matthew Ryder to help ensure Londoners from different faiths, ethnicities, backgrounds and social classes are better integrated in a city that is the most diverse in the country, where the population is at record levels and where more than 300 languages are spoken.

The Mayor’s Social Integration Conference at City Hall today is the first time that this number of Mayors from across Europe are brought together to share ideas and solutions to create more cohesive communities. Delegates include policy experts, city leaders and the Mayors of Amsterdam, Athens, Brussels, Copenhagen, Ghent, Lisbon, Oslo, Rotterdam, Stockholm, Vienna, and the Deputy Mayors of Bordeaux, New York and Paris. Attendees also include the Mayors of Bristol and Liverpool and the Leader of Birmingham Council, as well as experts in social policy including London’s Deputy Mayor for Social Integration Matthew Ryder, Professor Ted Cantle from the Institute for Community Cohesion and Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive of the Royal Society of the Arts, who is heading up the Taylor Review into employment practices in the modern economy.