Manchester’s first Asian Lord Mayor, Cllr Afzal Khan, who has been selected to run as a Labour candidate for the North West in this year’s European Parliament election, has promised that if he wins the European Election 2014, he’ll make sure that the “disparity” and the “wide gap” between the north and south of Britain is reduced, ensuring that the “unfair treatment” by the Tory government towards the North-West is sorted out.
Speaking exclusively to Asian Lite, Cllr Khan, who’s one of the eight North West Labour MEP candidates, said: “I will work as a team and elevate the living standard of the people and work to create more job and business opportunities for the development of the North West.”
Taking Manchester as an example, the former Lord Mayor, said: “If we were dealt the average cuts like the rest of the country, we would have been £1 million better off every week; this is the scale of unfairness that the people of the North West are facing today.”
Also, the 52 – year-old leader has vowed to strongly take on both the BNP’s Nick Griffin and UKIP. Cllr Khan said, “It was to our shame that since 2009, Griffing has done nothing to help the struggling people of the North West and has instead abused his position in the EU to spread his message of hate and spread poison against the BME community in Europe. As a Labour candidate for this year’s EU elections, I will be campaigning hard to ensure we defeat Nick Griffin and to replace his message of hate and division with one of peace, togetherness and hope.”
Alleging the BNP for spreading violence against the BME community, he said, “It’s a proven fact that whenever there’s activity on the far-right, whether at the council or at a higher level, you find that aggressions and violence against minority communities increase. We’ve seen during the 9/11 attacks how innocent Asians were targeted. We have to ensure that people belonging to the far-right shouldn’t have a foothold – because if they have, they will use the voice they have to spread poison and violence in the community, creating fear and havoc.”
“We also need to ensure that the relationship of fairness and justice is there for all of us and that the people from the Far-Right, who are in the marginal in Britain, do not have a grip in power. Instead of fighting hordes, we should be working together to strengthen and improve people’s lives,” said Cllr Khan.
His top most priority will be to revive the economy of the region, create more opportunities so that the community gets a “fair share of the growth”. Referring to the global recession which didn’t spare Britain even, he said, “It has been quite difficult in the last few years with the banking crisis and there has been a melt-down and recession at the global level which has hit us hard. Therefore, the top priority for us would be to turn the economy around. We’ve seen some good signs but there’s still a long way to go.
“The family purse has been squeezed, and we need to eliminate this and ensure growth. With growth and opportunities, we also need to make sure that our community gets their fair share of that growth.”
With a promise to use his 25 years of community experience to lead the charge against the Far Right, Cllr Khan stated that “As the youth of this generation have been severely hit by the recession more than their fathers and forefathers, we need to provide better resources, education and employment for the young people”.
Brought up in Lancashire after coming to the UK aged 11, Cllr Khan left school with no qualifications and worked as a labourer in a mill before returning to education. He then spent three years as a police officer with Greater Manchester Police before going on to study law and qualifying as a solicitor.
Having been actively involved in community rights from a young age, Cllr Khan’s said, “We have to make sure that the EU works for the people of the North-West and helps businessmen so that the global market opens up to us also”, he added.
Why EE 2014?
As a recipient of ‘Mayor of the Year’ and CBE Awards in 2008 for services to community and interfaith relations and to the local government, Cllr Khan said, “It’s very important to have our people in the European Parliament and at all levels of the society, as we’re part-and-parcel of British society and the European Union is one of the most powerful and important decision-making bodies and economies in the world – we need to be engaged. By having our representative in the EU, we can have a voice where our rights and dues will be protected, and ensure that we build a strong bond and trade relation for South Asia.”
Britain’s gain from Europe
He stressed that Britain needed to realise the importance and the benefits the country is deriving from Europe.
“We’ve seen the biggest growth in the last few decades, it’s only this time that the economy has dwindled due to recession. So, we need to come out and make sure that the institution is reformed and effective, and use this position to open up to the world for the benefit of Britain.”
Furthermore, he maintained that nearly 3.5 million jobs are connected with Europe. The concept of general rights of employment, leave and other benefits including holiday protection in Britain came from Europe.
He said that the potential on roaming charges of the mobile is decreasing.
“This is not accidental – rather it’s due to the EU,” said Cllr Khan who has served the Labour Party at different levels.
But explaining one of the biggest myths about the EU, he said, “There are some valid questions surrounding the EU but, as with anything, we need to look at a bigger picture instead of some isolated negative facts. The privilege of being able to move around freely across 28 countries without a visa is itself an example that other parties don’t talk about. Some of the banking protections have come from the EU and certainly not from the Tory government here.”
“When money is flowing into the country and more jobs and businesses are being created, then why should we complain?” he asked.
Key-points and strategies
One of the key strategies of Cllr Khan is that the Labour Party, unlike the Tories, will be “inside and around the table” to make a difference in the European market. He said, “Tories just keep talking about walking away but that’s not the asnwer. The best way to do business in the European market is by being inside and around the table and then actually make a difference whilst there. The alternative is to leave without a say in the rules and regulations that you still have to follow to survive. So to me, leaving the EU is nothing short of stupidity. The whole Tory game is to protect the Conservative Party’s internal squabble instead of looking at the interest of the country. The interest of the country lies in being with Europe.”
Asked about the rapid changes in global power and influence which is also affecting Europe, Cllr Khan said, “The ground reality is that Europe has got the biggest economy and countries like the US understand this value. Many developing countries look towards Britain.”
Citing examples of India and China, he told that Chinese ensures goods manufactured in China for the European market are in compliance with the EU quality control policy.
“There are a lot of positive and good stuff in the EU, we just need to make the best of it and have a say instead of reforming from outside,” he added.
Slamming the Far-Right and the Tory government, Cllr Khan said, “We see the Far-Right blaming the immigrant communities, and all we see is the Tories singing to their tune – they are doing nothing to oppose this. But if you step back and look at it, there are several things which need to be pondered upon. Though a complex matter, immigration on the whole is better for Britain. We have benefitted undoubtedly throughout. Look at the Asian community and how they have managed to look after the NHS which is the Jewel in the Crown. Most of the doctors and nurses are from immigrant communities; they have put in more than what they have received.
“Europe in general is facing a demographic crisis. More and more people are living longer. Therefore we need more young people with skills to sustain the economy.”
Trade and business
However, Cllr Khan was quite unhappy with the multi-national companies (MNCs) making a beeline for Britain, and wants to tighten the tax system for these companies so that they pay their share towards Britain’s economy. “I’ve no problem with the MNCs as we’re living in a global economy but what annoys me is that they come to Britain and make profits here but don’t want to pay taxes. I want to make sure that there are firm rules where they’ll pay their dues and taxes like us.”
However, he was quick to add that he doesn’t see Britain as a melting-pot “but a garden with different flowers (read: contributions)”.
“Britain has a long and proud history of trade. By having people from different parts of the world, you open up that relationship which in turn creates more jobs and wealth. So it can’t be bad and that’s the key point for me. Any young person who comes to Britain is an asset where he/she will do things and pay taxes as well. They are the least burden to the society,” said Cllr Khan.
He applauded the BME or the Asian community for their contribution towards Britain, and insisted that more glass-ceilings need to be broken.
Cllr Khan, who has also worked as a lead member for racial equality and assistant executive member for finance, said: “As a BME or an Asian community, we’ve made a large contribution for the betterment of ourselves and for Britain as well. We need to be proud of the achievement but the sky is the limit. We need to break more glass ceilings and achieve greater heights. We can do things only when we have a position which then translates into tremendous force and inspiration,” he stressed.
Meanwhile, the election manifesto from the Labour Party will be released in March, Cllr Khan informed.
“The family will take the centre-stage. We should think of the ordinary people and make sure that Europe serves the 99% of the people who have felt the squeeze in their purses and not the privileged 1 per cent,” he concluded.