HELPING COMMUNITIES rather than leaving the European Union is the way to tackle concerns over immigration, according to London mayor Sadiq Khan.
Mr Khan called for politicians to take responsibility for the pressures on public services in some areas as a result of immigration rather than using them as a way to persuade people to vote Leave.
He recently secured a convincing victory in the race to be London mayor and is now seen by many in Labour ranks as they key to securing party supporters’ votes for Remain.
Mr Khan was in Leeds today as part of a tour of the region rallying Britain Stronger In Europe activists and supporters.
Immigration is thought to be one of the major issues fuelling support for Leave in areas that have traditionally backed Labour in Yorkshire.
Mr Khan told The Yorkshire Post: “The starting point is immigration has brought huge economic, cultural and social benefits to our country and we must always recognise that.
“The reality is though we have to recognise there are many many people who have got problems getting decent housing, they’ve got problems in terms of waiting times to see a specialist in the NHS, they’ve got problems in relation to getting their children in a local school.
“Now the reality is we politicians must accept the responsbility and the blame for that and make sure we build the genuinely affordable homes, we’ve got to invest in the NHS, we’ve got to make sure schools are big enough to take the children.
“I’m not sure blaming immigration solves the problem. Rather than playing on people’s fears we’ve got to address them.”
Mr Khan claimed the mayor of Paris had already told him the city was ready to welcome companies that would desert the UK in the event of it leaving the EU and he argued Yorkshire has a lot to lose.
He said: “Leeds is now one of the financial capitals of Europe. One of the reasons is because you’ve got companies from around the world coming to our country to have their European headquarters here.
“The services sector in Leeds is massive and I worry about people not realising the importance of the EU to Leeds booming.
“I think there’s a postive patriotic case to remain in the EU. It protects our jobs, protects wages, protects workers’ right but actually I worry abou the consequences should we live.”
Labour’s referendum campaign has been criticised from within the party’s own ranks by those who believe leader Jeremy Corbyn’s own lukewarm support for the EU has led to a lacklustre approach to securing support for Remain.
A fresh drive to win over Labour supporters was launched this week and Mr Khan insisted now was not the time to look at past failings.
He said: “With eight days to go I don’t think there’s time to reflect on the campaign so far.
“What we need to do is persuade our fellow citizens why it is so important, speak to your family, speak to your friends, speak to your neighbours.
“We have always been an open-minded outward looking country, we’ve always embraced our cultures and I worry about our place in the world.
“It’s not about me, its about my children and my grandchildren and what kind of country I want them to live in.”