Khan, Mayor for all Londoners

27th May 2016
Khan, Mayor for all Londoners

Flanked by Conservative candidate Zac Goldsmith, newly elected Mayor of London Sadiq Khan delivers his victory speech at City Hall having won the biggest personal mandate in the history of British politics on May 6

(Photo: Ray Tang /AA)

Hamed Chapman

The newly elected Mayor of London spoke of how proud he was and yet humble to have won a landslide victory over his main Tory rival and other candidates standing to replace Boris Johnson.

Sadiq Khan expressed a kaleidoscope of emotions during his victory speech, when he again repeated the first promise he made during his campaign to “always be a mayor for all Londoners.”

“To work hard to make life better for every Londoner, regardless of your background and to do everything in my power to ensure you get the opportunities that our incredible city gave to me,” he pledged.

Sadiq Khan has won the London mayoral election, beating Conservative rival Zac Goldsmith. (Source: BBC LONDON)

The election for London mayor was the fifth since the post was set up in 2000. Khan also claimed the biggest victory margin to date. He received 1,310,143 votes, higher than for any previous London Mayor.

This amounted to 57 per cent of the total final votes to Zac Goldsmith’s 43 per cent (994,614 votes).

Turnout was 45.6 per cent, up from 38 per cent in 2012. Most notably he became the first Muslim to hold such a powerful political position in Britain and first Western capital to run by a Muslim.

“I grew up on a council estate just a few miles from here. Back then, I never dreamed that someone like me could be elected as Mayor of London. And I want to say thank you to every single Londoner for making the impossible possible today, ”said the most senior elected Labour politician.

Like throughout the hustings, the Labour candidate attempted to steer clear of the hullabaloo created by Zac Goldsmith trying to play the Islamophobic card during the campaigning but briefly referred to it in his speech.

“This election was not without controversy and I’m so proud that London has today chosen hope over fear and unity over division. I hope that we will never be offered such a stark choice again. Fear does not make us safer, it only makes us weaker and the politics of fear is simply not welcome in our city.”

It was largely left to others, including members of Goldsmith’s own party, to condemn the Islamophobic overtones directed at Khan’s religion. Attempting to paint the Labour candidate as an extremist was “ludicrous”, said former Justice Secretary, Ken Clarke. London should be “proud” to have the first Muslim mayor of a Western capital, he said.

About Khan, Clarke said that he “wouldn’t dream of suggesting he was anything other than a perfect example of someone who is anti-racist.” But about the campaign against him he said: “The argument he was an extremist was ludicrous, utterly ludicrous. I suspect it gave him a bigger majority.”

The veteran Tory MP said as London was “a young metropolitan city” it was a mistake to be seen to be targeting Khan’s race or faith. And even though his party’s candidate had lost, he said he was “rather proud of fact” London now had a Muslim mayor. “It’s rather good idea to have the first Muslim mayor of London. I think that’s a thoroughly good thing.”

The vile attacks against Khan’s religion extended to David Cameron who resorted to Islamophobic smears at Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) last month in a disastrous attempt to undermine the campaign of Labour candidate for Mayor of London.

The Prime Minister attacked the Tooting MP and former human rights lawyer for repeatedly sharing a platform with Tooting Imam Suliman Gani. “If we are going to condemn not just violent extremism but also extremism that seeks to justify violence in any way, it is very important we do not back these people and we do not appear on platforms with them. And I have to say I am concerned about Labour’s candidate as Mayor of London who has appeared again and again and again…”

Despite the personal abuse, which included falsely accusing Gani of being a member of Daesh, Cameron refused to withdraw his smears after it was shown that the Imam being photographed with Goldsmith and had apparently been invited by Conservative candidate, Dan Watkins, who stood for Tooting against Khan at the last General Elections, to bring members of Tooting’s Muslim community to a Conservative forum.

Other Conservative heavyweights also lent their support to what has already been described as the dirtiest election in British history. Former Mayor Boris Johnson wrote in the Telegraph: “In Islam and the Labour party there is a struggle going on, and in both cases Khan – whatever his real views – is pandering to the extremists. I don’t want him running our capital.” Home Secretary, Theresa May, said he was “unsafe” to run London at a time when we face “a significant threat of terrorism”.

Even after the overwhelming victory, Cameron still refused to issue any apology. Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon, who has been outspoken in the Islamophobic campaign repeatedly refused say in an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Today programme whether London would be safe with Khan as its new mayor.

It was not until a week later that the Prime Minister issued a brief statement in Parliament to ‘clarify’ his comments about Ghani, claiming that when he labelled him as a member of IS that he was referring to reports that he “supports ‘an’ Islamic state.

“I am clear that this does not mean Mr Ghani supports the organisation Daesh and I apologise to him for any misunderstanding.”

Among a string of other senior Tories who savaged the Goldsmith camp, the most senior Conservative in the London Assembly, Andrew Boff, said the tactics used by Goldsmith were “ridiculous” and had “blown up” bridges with the Muslim community.

He warned that the approach would damage integration in London and was a “bizarre” thing for a London politician to do. “I don’t think it was dog whistle because you can’t hear a dog whistle – everybody could hear this. It was effectively saying that people of conservative religious views are not to be trusted and you shouldn’t share a platform with them. That’s outrageous.”

Welcoming Cameron’s belated apology, which notably was not issued to Khan, the Muslim Council of Britain said that “such smear-by-association has become all too common for Muslims and Muslim organisations. It is a cancer blighting sections of our political and media class and has infected the solemn business of Government.”

Secretary General of the Council, Dr Shuja Shafi, called for an urgent review of Islamophobia in the Conservative Party, saying that just as Labour was “rightly conducting an inquiry into anti-Semitism, it is important for the Conservative Party to reflect upon the extent of Islamophobia in its own ranks. We should have zero tolerance for both anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.”

Editorial: Real task starts for Khan after momentous victory

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