Sadiq Khan ‘snubs hustings for deaf and disabled’

Sadiq Khan has been accused of not listening to disabled voters
Khan has faced fierce criticism from campaign groups - PA

Sadiq Khan has been accused of not listening to disabled voters after shunning a hustings for deaf and disabled Londoners.

Mr Khan’s main opponents in the 2024 mayoral election also failed to join the meeting on Tuesday, which was attended by about 150 voters who had hoped to meet the Mayor and other candidates.

The mayor of London has faced fierce criticism from campaign groups who fear that London’s so-called floating bus stops, where pedestrians cross a cycle lane to reach the “floating” bus stop, pose a particular danger to blind pedestrians.

The Telegraph reported in January on leaked documents that showed Transport for London’s (TfL) own research had found 60 per cent of cyclists do not obey road rules by giving way to pedestrians at crossings.

Special arrangements had been made to make the Westminster hustings accessible, with charities such as Real, Wheels For Wellbeing and the British Deaf Association in attendance.

Hyacinth Malcolm, a campaigner for the National Federation for the Blind UK (NFBUK), told The Telegraph: “Our current mayor just isn’t listening.

“Does a blind or disabled person have to be killed before they do anything? He just doesn’t understand or doesn’t want to understand.”

She added: “The buses are the most accessible way for us to travel. We can’t do it any more.”

Susan Hall
Susan Hall (pictured) - the Conservative candidate for the London Mayoral elections - also failed to show for Tuesday's event

NFBUK campaigners said they have been raising concerns since at least 2019, and have twice been to Downing Street to escalate their concerns, claiming they have been ignored by the Mayor and Will Norman, his cycling tsar.

Rachel Blake, who is standing to be a Labour MP in the next general election, was sent as Mr Khan’s replacement. She told the audience: “We have a direct choice, Sadiq’s positive vision to build a fairer, greener and safer London or a hard-right Tory candidate who doesn’t share London’s values.”

Susan Hall and Rob Blackie - the Conservative and Liberal Democrat candidates for the London Mayoral elections, respectively - also failed to show up for Tuesday’s event. The Green Party’s Zoë Garbett was the only mayoral candidate to attend.

Conservative Andrew Boff, Chair of the London Assembly, sent in place of Ms Hall said she would “listen and she will listen intently” - despite her not being there.

Tracey Lazard, CEO of Inclusion London, the charity that organised the hustings, said: “We are deeply disappointed by the failure of the Lib Dem, Labour and Conservative candidates to turn up today. We were lobbying right up until the last moment.”

She added that hustings are “a vital part of that democratic process. It’s a way that politicians who want our vote need to come and listen to us and actually meet us and talk with us.”

Lazard said that Inclusion London was launching a No More No Shows campaign, so concerned is the charity about democratic exclusion this year, when the general election will take place.

Last month, Garbett was the only candidate to attend Age UK’s London hustings, attended by 150 older Londoners.

A spokesperson for Ms Hall said: “Susan will always stand up for Londoners with disabilities. As Mayor, Susan will improve accessibility and step-free access on public transport, make pavements safer by removing floating bus stops and discarded lime bikes, and put a stop to anti-driver schemes like the ULEZ expansion which disadvantages disabled people who rely on their cars.

“Susan is listening to Londoners and while she unfortunately couldn’t make this specific engagement, she regularly meets with disability groups and will continue to advocate for Londoners with disabilities.”

A London Labour spokesperson said: “Sadiq is committed to making our city as fair and accessible as possible so that every Londoner, including Londoners with disabilities, can make the most of all it has to offer.

“He was unable to attend the hustings due to a scheduling conflict and sent a representative in his place, as did the Tory and Lib Dem candidates.

“TfL recently published an ambitious plan – Equity in Motion – to improve accessibility across the transport network with more than 80 actions. Since Sadiq became Mayor, the proportion of step-free access Tube stations has increased from a quarter to a third, and this new plan will increase this to half.

“Equity in Motion was developed with TfL’s Independent Disability Advisory Group and was backed by Transport for All.”

Rob Blackie was approached for comment.