President Trump's Visit

MQT on 2018-07-19
Session date: 
July 19, 2018
Question By: 
David Kurten
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


Why did you give permission for an obscene blimp of President Trump to fly over London during the President's visit to London?


Answer for President Trump's Visit

Answer for President Trump's Visit

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Thank you, Chairman.  The UK, like the United States (US), has a long and rich history of the right and the freedom to protest and the freedom of speech and the freedom to assemble.  I have always supported the right to peaceful protest and understand that this can take many different forms.  Parliament Square is a site used for protest on all kinds of issues across the centuries.  It is an important assembly point at the heart of our democracy.


The City Operations Team at the GLA, as is usual procedure, met with the organisers of this protest and gave them permission to use Parliament Square Garden as a grounding point for the blimp.  The City Operations Team at the GLA have the power to approve use of the gardens as long as a number of criteria are met, such as liability insurance alongside a full health and safety risk assessment by the GLA’s independent consultants.  I was not involved in the decision at all.  It was made by the City Operations Team at the GLA.


The organisers also had to separately seek the necessary approvals from the MPS and the National Air Traffic Service, which they did.  It is important to realise it is not the Mayor’s or the GLA’s role to act as a censor or the arbiter of what is or is not a good protest.  It is the GLA’s job to assess whether it can be done safely, legally and peacefully.  My main priority is the safety of all Londoners and visitors to our city.  As always, I am working closely with the MPS and other key agencies to ensure all protests are carried out safely and securely.


David Kurten AM:  Mr Mayor, you seem to be trying to rebrand yourself as a champion of free speech, but in the two years that you have been Mayor, you have introduced new guidelines in TfL advertising that will ban an advertisement like that at Protein World, which simply has on it a picture of a woman in a bikini.  You have introduced guidelines to TfL staff to ban them from using the highly offensive phrase “ladies and gentlemen”.  You have also introduced new guidance to TfL staff to stop them from commemorating historical British events like the Battle of Rorke’s Drift, which of course was immortalised by Michael Caine in the film Zulu.  When I asked you about that in May [2018], you said that the staff at Dollis Hill were ill‑judged simply to say “on this day in history the Battle of Rorke’s Drift happened”.  Therefore, the idea that you are against censorship is brazenly ridiculous, is it not, Mr Mayor?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Do you want me to deal with each of those points in turn?  I am surprised you do not realise this, but freedom to protest and freedom of speech is a bit different from advertising on the Underground.  Even the right to free protest has limitations.  For example, if there are concerns around national security, your right to free speech can be limited.  If, for example, there are issues around ‘child pornography’ - in inverted commas - your limitations are there for free speech.  For example, if the laws of defamation are breached, there are limitations on free speech.  I am really happy to give you tutelage on free speech.


David Kurten AM:  I do not think I need any tutelage from you, Mr Mayor.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  You asked the question.  Article 10 of the Human Rights Act is quite clear about the limitations on free speech.  In the US Convention, which you claim to know, the first article talks about the importance of free speech and why it is so important.  I am surprised, as somebody who claims to be an expert on free speech, you are not aware in certain circumstances it is right and proper, in a democracy, we have curtailment.  For example, you could not go into a busy cinema and shout the word “fire”.  That is a limitation on your free speech because of what it would lead to.  It would lead to mass panic and all sorts of issues.  That is why it is really important, and if it is the case that ‑‑


David Kurten AM:  Mr Mayor, you are very good at dodging the question that I put to you beforehand, which is about what happened on TfL.  Will you allow TfL staff to use the phrase “ladies and gentlemen” in future?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  What is really important is to understand the context of the protest in Parliament Square and why there was the protest in Parliament Square.  It seems to me that you are conflating a number of different issues.  The right to protest, which I think 250,000 expressed on Friday, and the limitations you want to bring upon them because of hurt feelings to somebody you idolise ‑‑ I do not mind you idolising him.  What is important, though, is to realise that we must ensure that British citizens and others can express their right to protest.


David Kurten AM:  Mr Mayor, you use the word “idolise”.  Certainly, that is a childish word, Mr Mayor.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  What word would you use?


David Kurten AM:  Obviously President Trump is on course to be one of the greatest presidents.  He has successfully done a ‑‑ as you will admit, Mr Mayor ‑‑


Tony Arbour AM (Chairman):  You are taking up time.


David Kurten AM:  He has successful improved relations with North Korea in a way that no other president or head of state could ever imagine.  This blimp that you have allowed to fly in London is the most grotesque insult to a sitting President of the US in history.  It would be inconceivable that a mayor of an American city such as New York or Washington would allow such a balloon or blimp to fly over our head of state.  If that happened, we would rightly say that this is an insult not just to the head of state but the whole country.  Will you admit, Mr Mayor, that this is a gross insult to the President of the US and it brings shame and embarrassment upon our city?


Tony Arbour AM (Chairman):  Time is up.  We will never know what the Mayor thinks about that.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Chairman, I think you can guess.


Tony Arbour AM (Chairman):  I could guess.  The next question is from Assembly Member McCartney and relates to toilet charging.