Fresh doubts have been cast on Sadiq Khan’s claims to have “led” on Crossrail following an examination of Hansard.
The claim initially surfaced during Labour’s selection process when Khan needed to match Tessa Jowell’s proven involvement in the Olympics and has since been repeated in a major campaign newspaper which recently arrived in Londoners’ letterboxes.
Accompanying a picture of Sadiq in high-vis and PPE is a caption that reads: “I led on big projects such as Crossrail.”
His local paper the Wandsworth Guardian has examined that claim, picking up in part on my July piece which showed how Crossrail significantly predated Khan’s time as a Transport Minister.
Khan’s response has to been to re-frame his leadership claims as applying to the passage of the Business Rates Supplement Bill through Parliament.
The Bill allowed the Mayor to collect money towards Crossrail via the business rates but its passing was not as key to the scheme as Sadiq would have you believe.
In response to concerns raised by Ken Livingstone, a Khan backer and more importantly Mayor of London at the time, the Govt agreed to guarantee the sums likely to be raised through business rates if the Bill wasn’t passed.
So the Bill was not really all that important – in a world where it had never passed Crossrail would still have gone ahead fully funded.
And Hansard – the authoritative record of Parliamentary proceedings – would appear to undermine even the claim that Sadiq led on the Bill.
Here for example is John Healey MP answering questions about the Government’s plans “to levy a supplement on the business rate and retain and invest the proceeds in additional projects aimed at promoting the economic development of local areas.”
And here’s Healey again introducing the Bill’s second reading – a duty which those of us outside Parliament and less familiar with its quaint terms and customs might reasonably classify as leading on it?
And when the Public Bill Committee grilled Healey and Khan about the Bill, the person who answers first and most often is Healey.
Now, while I’ve never taken part in a Commons debate I have appeared before a Commons select committee and I’m pretty clear having been asked slightly fewer questions than my co-witnesses and generally after they’d already spoken that I was not the lead witness.
But perhaps Sadiq was just being generous and let a colleague do all the hard work and, at the time, take all the credit?
Or perhaps the claim to have “led” on Crossrail is ultimately just puff from a politician simply desperate to create a backstory for himself?