LONDON // Labour’s Sadiq Khan has been elected the first Muslim mayor of London after defeating Conservative Zac Goldsmith.
In doing so, Mr Khan, 45, has also become the first Muslim leader of an EU capital city, despite a bitter Tory campaign that focused on his faith.
“Congratulations Sadiq Khan. Can’t wait to work with you to create a London that is fair for all,” Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn tweeted on Friday night.
Mr Khan, the son of a London bus driver and a seamstress, was from a starkly different background to his main opponent, Mr Goldsmith, the 41-year-old son of a billionaire tycoon.
The former human rights lawyer will take over from the popular Boris Johnson, ending eight years of Conservative rule in the British capital.
Mr Khan distanced himself from Mr Corbyn during the campaign, despite nominating the socialist for the leadership after Ed Miliband’s resignation last year. He said he did so to encourage debate in the party and that it was ludicrous to claim he was his close ally.
The new mayor’s claim was helped when a leaked memo from Mr Corbyn’s office referred to him as hostile.
Conservative campaigners, meanwhile, said Mr Khan had “questions to answer” over Muslims with whom he had shared platforms and who, it was said, expressed extremist views.
He asked Labour activists not to rise to the bait, however, and to concentrate on his manifesto of providing affordable housing for Londoners, freezing transport fares and pledging to promote and support businesses.
Mr Goldsmith’s campaign, run by colleagues of prime minister David Cameron’s campaign chief Lynton Crosby, was criticised by senior Conservatives on Thursday night.
The Conservative candidate “was effectively saying people of conservative religious views are not to be trusted and you shouldn’t share a platform with them – it was outrageous”, said Andrew Boff, leader of the Conservative group on the Greater London Assembly.
“Bridges that have been built” with the Muslim community “have been blown up by this campaign. A lot of us are going to have to spend a lot of time on trying to re-establish those links”.
Mr Boff said the anti-Islamic tone of Mr Goldsmith’s campaign had been brought up by voters on the doorstep and he expected Conservative candidates in the race for the London Assembly to lose votes as a result.
Mr Khan grew up in social housing in Tooting, which he represents in the House of Commons. He was a minister in Gordon Brown’s government.
He has pledged to join the fight to keep Britain in the EU in the referendum on June 23.
Mr Khan’s win brought some joy in the face of Labour’s embarrassing result in Scotland, where it was pushed to third place in parliament behind the Scottish Nationalist Party and the Conservatives.
But the party fared better overall than many predicted, holding on to control in major English cities including Birmingham, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Sunderland.