Sadiq Khan, the son of a bus driver, became London’s first Muslim mayor on Saturday, seeing off a Conservative challenger who attempted to link him to extremism and securing a much-needed win for his opposition Labour Party.
Khan’s victory, which also makes him the first Muslim to head a major Western capital, was confirmed shortly after midnight inside London’s futuristic glass and steel city hall following a day of mixed news for Labour in elections elsewhere in the country.
Dealt a crushing blow in Scotland, where it came third behind the Scottish National Party and Britain’s ruling Conservatives, Labour did better than expected in England, saving its left-leaning leader from an early challenge.
But the big prize was the London mayor vote, which pitted Khan, 45, who grew up in public housing in inner city London, against Conservative Zac Goldsmith, 41, the son of a billionaire financier.
“This election was not without controversy and I am so proud that London has today chosen hope over fear and unity over division,” Khan said in a short speech after the results.
“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.”
Plaudits for Khan flooded in from as far afield as New York, whose mayor Bill de Blasio said on Twitter: “Sending congratulations to London’s new mayor and fellow affordable housing advocate, @SadiqKhan.”
Khan’s 13.6 percent margin of victory over Goldsmith was the widest in a London mayoral election in 16 years, showing that a bitter campaign marred by accusations that Khan had links to extremists and charges of anti-Semitism within Labour ranks had failed to deter his voters.