Sadiq Khan received racist abuse after false reports he blocked Queen statue

Telegraph incorrectly claimed the London mayor had ruled out a sculpture of the late Queen on Trafalger Square’s fourth plinth

Sadiq Khan has received a wave of social media abuse, some of it racist, after newspapers incorrectly that reported he might block a new statue of the Queen, days after the London mayor warned that some media outlets were “monetising” hatred.

The story, initially reported by the Telegraph under the headline “No room for Queen Elizabeth II statue on Trafalgar Square’s fouth plinth, rules Sadiq Khan”, was printed despite a statement saying this was not the case.

The fourth plinth in the square is occupied by a rolling series of sculptures and artworks, the latest of which is a statue of John Chilembwe, a Baptist pastor who died during a revolt against the British in what is now Malawi in 1915.

The longstanding programme for the empty plinth, organised by a commission answerable to Khan’s office, has been set out for the next four years, leading some newspapers to say this meant a statue of the late Queen could not be placed there.

But in a statement, the Greater London Authority, which covers the mayoralty and the city’s devolved assembly, did not rule this out, saying the location of a statue was a decision for King Charles III and the royal family.

It added: “A statue of the Queen at a suitable location in London is a matter for the royal family to consider, and of course the Greater London Authority stands ready to support them in their wishes.”

A later statement from Khan’s office said he was happy to support the royals in what they wished, which “includes using the fourth plinth if that is the royal family’s preference”.

There has been no indication that the royals have asked that the plinth be used for a statue.

While the headline of the Telegraph story was later amended, the idea of Khan supposedly blocking the statue was picked up by a series of other mainstream outlets, and it trended on social media.

Many social media messages accused Khan of not being patriotic, contrasting what they saw as his decision over the Queen with the presence on the fourth plinth of artwork by a Malawian sculptor, Samson Kambalu. A number used racist slurs.

It comes less than a week after Khan, speaking at the Labour conference, said analysis showed that 230,000 racist tweets had been posted about him since he took the role in 2016.

At the event, Khan said the hatred was often stoked by inaccurate reporting in the traditional media, who had realised that stories demonising him, even if misleading, received lots of views.

“What we’ve realised now is that when you use my name, it’s good clickbait for traffic,” he said. “It’s a trickle-down tone being set by the mainstream media. It’s good for business … Hate has been monetised.”

Dawn Butler MP, the Labour MP for Brent Central in north London, said the press had “a responsibility to ensure their output, including headlines, is fair and accurate”.

She said: “It’s no secret that using Sadiq’s name online guarantees clicks and generates income. That’s particularly true if there’s a way the headline can be used to suggest Sadiq is not truly British – as it gets picked up and widely shared by the far right and racist trolls online.

“Inaccurate headlines of the kind we’ve seen this week are designed to be inflammatory and go viral – to be shared, not read – and it is clear they were shared widely.”

Speaking last week, Khan blamed his Conservative opponent in the 2016 mayoral election, Zac Goldsmith, for having “mainstreamed and normalised prejudices” with a campaign widely criticised for being racist in the way it highlighted Khan’s Muslim background.


Peter Walker Political correspondent

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Prue Leith, instigator of fourth plinth, resists calls for Queen statue
Bake Off judge, who campaigned to use Trafalgar Square space for contemporary art, says it’s not prominent enough for monarch

Matthew Weaver

27, Sep, 2022 @3:10 PM

Article image
Sadiq Khan's words on Islamists and Britain were authentic and shrewd
The Labour mayoral candidate’s speech about the Paris attacks, his family and his fellow Muslims combined political knowhow and true conviction

Dave Hill

20, Nov, 2015 @12:17 PM

Article image
Media firms introduce advertising blackouts to respect late Queen
Television, newspaper, social media and advert-placement companies limit ads for varying periods

Mark Sweney

09, Sep, 2022 @1:27 PM

Article image
Media outlets outraged over Meghan and Harry series run wall-to-wall coverage
Many papers denouncing royal couple for making Netflix documentary use series to pull in readers

Jim Waterson Media editor

08, Dec, 2022 @3:06 PM

Article image
‘Wagatha Christie’ trial: Vardy ordered to pay up to £1.5m of Rooney’s legal fees
High court says Vardy must cover 90% of fellow footballer’s wife’s costs after she lost libel trial

Jim Waterson Media editor

04, Oct, 2022 @6:00 PM

Article image
London mayor race: can Zac Goldsmith catch Sadiq Khan?
The Labour candidate looks on course to win back City Hall for his party but a lot could have changed by 5 May

Dave Hill

10, Jan, 2016 @2:59 PM

Article image
Trump hails Boris Johnson as future PM and attacks Sadiq Khan
President calls ex-foreign secretary ‘very talented’ while criticising London mayor

Dan Sabbagh

13, Jul, 2018 @8:13 AM

Article image
‘Constant and reassuring’: global media pay tribute after death of the Queen
New York Times says Elizabeth II ‘projected stability’; Japan’s Asahi Shimbun says she ‘cared about postwar reconciliation’

Justin McCurry

09, Sep, 2022 @9:01 AM

Queen spoke of Blair's health history
Fresh doubts about Tony Blair's health were raised last night after the Queen disclosed he had suffered heart problems in the past, according to the Daily Mirror. By Kevin Maguire and Michael White.

Kevin Maguire and Michael White

21, Nov, 2003 @7:45 AM

Article image
Sadiq Khan speaks for peaceful Islam at Trafalgar Square Eid festival
London’s Muslim mayor has been confounding past claims by opponents that he’s had questionable “links” with Islamist extremists

Dave Hill

10, Jul, 2016 @1:51 PM