Sadiq Khan had a quick response when asked by a BBC reporter whether his visit to Pakistan was “like coming home”, replying: “No, home is south London, mate.”
The mayor of London, on a visit to Pakistan and India, smiled when asked the question but was keen to set the record straight.
Khan’s parents moved from Pakistan to England in the 1960s, and while standing for mayor he frequently referenced his south London upbringing and in particular the fact that his father drove a number 44 bus.
He grew up in Tooting and was elected as the area’s MP in 2005. But the BBCreporter Karl Mercer asked Khan as he crossed over the border from India into Pakistan: “Does it feel like coming home?”
After making clear that was not what he was doing, the mayor elaborated on his emotional connection to the region. “It’s good to be in Pakistan, it’s good to come from India, home of my parents and grandparents. Obviously there’s an emotional connection for me, bearing in mind my connections to this great part of the world.”
Khan became the first Muslim mayor of an EU capital city when he was elected in 2016, having fended off attempts by the Conservative campaign – widely discredited and criticised – to link him to Islamic extremists. Labour claimed the attacks on Khan were dog-whistle racism.
His public profile and popularity have led to him being spoken of as a possible future Labour leader, but while in Pakistan he ruled out that prospect. Khan told ITV: “I never had ambitions in the first place and I’ve got no ambitions now. I love being the mayor. Why give up a job I love to do a job I don’t want? I’m absolutely ruling myself out. Forever.”
Defending Mercer’s question, a BBC spokesman said: “Our reporter asked the mayor a question in the context of the trip being referred to by senior politicians in the region as a homecoming. The full answer the mayor gave shows he understood the context of the question.”