I am the only Muslim who served both parliaments, European & British parliament Afzal Khan CBE

Aims conducted a detailed interview with Afzal Khan, the way he answered our questions here is the details of which are available to our readers. 

I joined Labour Party mainly because I was unhappy with the councillors where I lived. They were Liberal Democrats. The thing with Lib Dems is that they are dishonest — they will go to one street and promise one thing, and then promise another on the next street. I do not have time for them. I have the Liberal Democrats to thank for me joining the Labour Party. 

I cannot say it was difficult — personally, I was never really that bothered about it. Once I got going, the Lib Dems wound me up enough to continue. I have always supported the Labour Party, but I was never motivated to get involved when I was young. I genuinely love Manchester. I was born in Pakistan, but I was made in Manchester. From 2000-2016, I was a local councillor; in 2005, I was Lord Mayor. I have been involved in all kinds of things in this city, particularly in equality and education. Afzal Khan said I am the only Muslim who served both parliaments, European and the British parliament. Even now my current roll in my party is that I am a front bencher as shadow leader of the house in parliament. 

The second thing that has motivated me now is Brexit. I am a very strong Remainer. I believe our country’s interests lie within the European Union, not outside. The result has torn me. As an MEP, I have experienced first-hand so many ways in which we benefit from the EU. The world is moving in one direction and this country is now moving in the opposite. Many generations will pay the price for this. The battle is in Westminster now. I feel that, with my experience, there is something I can do. This decision was made for me. 

He said I worked with Sir Gerald Kaufman for twenty years. He was a friend of mine and an amazing constituency MP. All these things came together at the right time for me — that is why I am running. 

When asked that what is Gorton’s biggest issue, I do not think there’s any single issue as such. We are not without problems though. At the heart of it, I think, is the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition and their austerity policies. Year after year, they made deeper cuts. He said we all need public services, especially those who are not so well off. Because of these cuts, everyday little things — bin collection and the roads, for example — are issues that need to be looked at. We have had 2000 jobs cut in the police; as a former police officer, that is particularly worrying to me. He goes that education is something I am passionate about. I was adopted, and I left school with no qualifications. I joke that I left school with nine no-levels! I went back as a mature student, doing night classes, that is why I want young people to have the same opportunities that I did, and education is the way to do that. The idea of having one job for life is an old one — no one can do that anymore. People will have four, five, ten jobs — as I certainly have. 

Housing is another issue. When I started as a councillor in Gorton, if somebody needed a council house, we could sort it out in a couple of weeks. Now, the waiting list is a few years. I blame the Tories — it was Thatcher’s idea to sell off council houses, as well as preventing us from building more social housing. Manchester is growing, but the number of council houses is shrinking. I like what Labour is offering — a million new homes, half of which will be social housing. He said everything I have spoken about is a basic need. It is not right that we do not have them now. I am sick and tired of austerity policies not working. The Tories are making the vulnerable more vulnerable, the better off even better off. That is not what politics is about. 

About immigrant he said, Honestly, having been all over the world, I think Britain is a pretty good place to be. Manchester is a very diverse place with lots of different people, and I saw all of that when I was Lord Mayor. We are not perfect and of course there are issues, but overall, the British are very accepting, we are all products of our life experiences. Mine has been tough. I was adopted from Pakistan by a Manchester family because of poverty. I was separated from my family, my culture, and my language at a critical age. That is why I feel so passionately about poverty and social justice — I would not have gone through that had my family not been poor. I have never been motivated by money, probably because of my childhood. He said there are loads of people I think are incredible and role model as Nelson Mandela is an inspiration — but I would have to say the person I look up to the most is Muhammad Ali (Boxer) from a very young age, I have been a very big fan of his. I watched all his fights. He was a character! He was very strong, both physically and mentally. Muhammad Ali stood up against what he thought was wrong and was willing to go to prison for that. People wrote him off in ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ but he bounced back and knocked George Foreman out. I strongly think that young people feel they are not being listened to, so they do not vote, so they are not listened to.  I have been part of the campaign to lower the voting age to 16. Had young people been fully engaged, I doubt Brexit would have happened. They understand the world we are now living in better than older people. Politics affects everyone and everything — it is very important. 

When asked that you have been the Lord Mayor of Manchester and had experience as MEP for the North West of England. What did you learn from these experiences? He said both opened the world for me and gave me local and global connections. We tend to live our lives with tunnel vision, and both helped me to stop doing that. Being Lord Mayor was a unique privilege. I got to see so much of Manchester that I never would have seen otherwise. I learned more in one year about Manchester than I had learnt in my previous 28 years there. I knocked Nick Griffin of the “British National Party” out of office when I became MEP. That alone was worth it. I took my seat as a councillor from a Liberal Democrat and turned it into a safe Labour seat with 84 per cent of the vote. George Galloway has accused me of being a Blairite, even though I campaigned against Iraq and have spoken at rallies for Jeremy Corbyn! About the media relationship between politicians, he said that the media undoubtedly has a role to play in politics. I value freedom of the press. Ownership of the media is shrinking to a very small number of people. That is unhealthy for a country, we should have diversity in names and opinions. My deeper issue is that our media is led by negativity. The cultural shift to pure sensationalism is doing readers and consumers more harm than good. Generally, in our society, we need to be fairer to others.  

Afzal Khan said, over one million Pakistani/Kashmiri are settled here in UK and they are contributing/participating in all walks of the life, I am optimistic that they can be a bridge between the two countries, so and this is our big challenge. He said if we compare with our population, I think both the countries having very less trade, we can do multifold trade as Pakistan is doing progress and its economy is growing, so both countries can get benefit of this situations. He has said we must seriously think about crime ratio in our community, especially in youngster. Afzal Khan said the heart of overseas Pakistanis always beats for Pakistan but in my opinion the biggest disease in Pakistan is corruption. Therefore, dealing with it should be Pakistan’s priority. He said law & justice require that there be justice in the society and this is so important that we have to strengthen institution rather than personalities. 

Introduction Dr Afzal Khan CBE
Dr Afzal Khan CBE MP is the Labour MP for Manchester, Gorton. Afzal was elected in the June 2017 General Election and received 35,085 votes, which equalled a 76.3% majority. He was re-elected in the December 2019 General Election and received 34,583 votes, equalling a plurality of 77.6%. Afzal was born in 1960 in Jhelum, Pakistan, and is a Labour Party politician from the City of Manchester. He was the Executive Member for Children’s Services and was the youngest, first British Pakistani and Muslim, Lord Mayor of Manchester from 2005 to 2006. Dr Afzal Khan served as Shadow Minister for Immigration (2017-2019) and Shadow Foreign Office Minister (2019-2020). When Sir Keir Stammer became Leader of the Labour Party, he appointed Afzal as Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Commons. Parliamentary Chair of Labour Muslim Network and APPG Trade & Tourism Pakistan and UK. He is also a Vice Chair of several All-Party Parliamentary Groups, including on British Muslims, Adult Social Care, Pakistan, Hajj and Umrah, Greater Manchester, and Poverty.
Afzal Khan was born in Pakistan and moved to the UK in 1971 at the age of 11, when he was adopted out of poverty as a child. He worked as a labourer in a cotton mill, a bus driver and a Greater Manchester Police Officer and later qualified as a solicitor. He served as a director in Mellor & Jackson solicitors in Oldham, before qualifying as a solicitor and becoming a partner at his own firm. In 2000 he was elected to Manchester City Council, rising to become the first Asian Lord Mayor of the city (receiving the coop ‘Mayor of the Year’ award – a first for Manchester), and was later a member of the council’s Executive. Prior to being elected as Member of Parliament, Afzal was a Member of the European Parliament for North West England, served as Vice president of Security and Defence (2014 – 2017)
In 2008 Afzal was awarded a CBE for his work on community cohesion, inter-faith and local government. In March of 2018, he was awarded the Sitara-i-Quaid-i-Azam, by President Mamnoon Hussain, the highest civilian honour, recognising his contribution to the well-being of the people of Pakistan, particularly in the diaspora, and to Pakistani-British relations. He holds honorary doctorates from the Government College University in Lahore (philosophy)and Mirpur University of science and technology (Law)
In February 2013 Afzal Khan was shortlisted as one of the North West’s eight potential Labour candidates for the 2014 European Parliament elections, which he won during the 2014 general European Parliamentary elections, becoming the MEP representing the North West. Khan is married with a son and two daughters, one of whom, Maryam, has also served as a councillor in Longsight.

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