Sadiq Khan: I’ve struggled with loneliness. I realised I should feel confident talking about it

Gabriella Swerling
·3 min read
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan talks candidly of his struggles with loneliness and his mental health over the coronavirus lockdown - Stefan Rousseau/PA
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan talks candidly of his struggles with loneliness and his mental health over the coronavirus lockdown - Stefan Rousseau/PA

Sadiq Khan has admitted that he has not always “provided proper leadership” as he struggles with his mental health during lockdown.

The Mayor of London said that he was used to stressful situations, but the coronavirus pandemic and the resultant lockdown has proved to be “the hardest of [his] professional life, in relation to the loneliness”.

In an interview with The Sunday Times Magazine, in which he addressed the Black Lives Matter movement as well as controversies over his handling of the Transport for London (TfL) saga as well as the boxing up of public monuments, Mr Khan spoke candidly about his mental health.

“I’ve found it really tough,” he said. “So, for eight weeks I didn’t leave, literally, my home and Tooting Common. That’s it. I thrive on company, on being out and about. And I was struggling.” 

Asked if it had seriously affected his mental health, he responded: “I’ve no doubt it did. In the sense of just feeling a bit down. There are days when I’m not providing proper leadership. I definitely… I felt fragile.”

“I can deal with stress,” Mr Khan added. “I can compartmentalise to get through things. But the past 10, 11 weeks have been the hardest of my professional life, in relation to the loneliness. 

“Because being a leader is lonely. And I’ve struggled. I also realised I should feel confident talking about it. I shouldn't feel that I’ve got to be this alpha male who demonstrates his virility by being superhuman. I’ve got to be honest because, you know, I have struggled.” 

The Mayor of London also referenced the deal he was forced to strike with Downing Street in May over the funding crisis at TfL after it required an urgent bailout as the lockdown meant its advertising collapsed, as well as its income from fares and the congestion charge revenue plummeted

The government issued a £1.095 billion cash grant, as well as a £505 million loan - but only on the condition that Mr Khan issued unpopular price hikes. “And why?” he said. “Because next May I stand for re-election… This was clearly political”

His comments come days after he revealed that he is reducing his salary by more than £15,000 as he threatened cuts to police, fire services and the Tube unless the government offers to bail out London amid the economic crisis.

However the TfL price hikes are not the only controversy that the London Mayor has become embroiled in during the pandemic. 

He has also drawn criticism for his decision to board up statues in the capital. Mr Khan clashed with Prime Minister Boris Johnson over his "absurd and shameful" decision to cover up the statue of  former prime minister Sir Winston Churchill in Parliament Square ahead of Black Lives Matter protests in the capital.

Mr Khan said he acted in conjunction with the Met Police to ensure several London landmarks, including the Cenotaph, were protected.

Asked, were it not for Covid-19, would he have joined the Black Lives Matter protests in London, Mr Khan responded: “I suspect I would have. Yes. I can’t but endorse Black Lives Matter - because they do.”

Responding to images that went viral on social media of police officers kneeling on one knee in solidarity following the death of George Floyd in America, he added: “I was really proud that they had the confidence to express their feelings without worrying about being disciplined. It shows the progress we’ve made.”