Transcending Ugly Campaign, London Elects First-Ever Muslim Mayor
Progressive Labour candidate Sadiq Khan, the son of an immigrant bus driver, battled nasty smears from opponent Zac Goldsmith
Labour candidate Sadiq Khan resoundingly won London's mayoral race on Friday, overcoming an "appalling dog whistle campaign" to become the city's first Muslim mayor.
"Right across London, black, white, and brown have gone out and voted for unity," former minister and Labour MP for Tottenham David Lammy told The Independent. "This is the first time an ethnic minority politician has been given a mandate from millions of people."
At the New Statesman, political editor George Eaton said that "Khan’s victory completes his remarkable personal journey from council home to City Hall and provides political consolation for Labour. As mayor, his administrative focus will be on delivering his signature pledges: the fares freeze, the 50 per cent affordable housing target and the London Living Rent. But strategists say he will also seek progress in four longer-term 'legacy' areas: social integration, skills and further education, the night-time economy and air pollution. Andrew Adonis, the cerebral former cabinet minister, is likely to take on a transport role."
"Beyond London," Eaton continued, "as the first Muslim mayor of a major western city, Khan will be a figure of global significance. His election is a rebuke to extremists of all stripes, from Donald Trump to Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, who assert that religions cannot peacefully co-exist."
With 97 percent of votes verified, Khan was ahead of conservative rival Zac Goldsmith by a comfortable margin of 44 to 35 percent. "[T]hey're still counting but if this were America they'd have called it for him by now," said the New Statesman live-blog.
Londoners are given two votes—a first preference and a second preference. City A.M. explains: "If a candidate gets over 50 percent of the first choice votes (which is very unlikely), he or she wins. If not, all candidates but the top two are eliminated, and anyone who voted for them has their second choice redistributed to the top two."
"Sadiq has won without question," said Peter Kellner, the former chairman of the market research firm YouGov, as he watched the results come in at City Hall. "He is well ahead on the first count and that’s not going to change radically." Polling released Thursday by YouGov indicated Khan would indeed win, taking City Hall for the Labour party after eight years under controversial Tory Boris Johnson.
The final results will be announced Friday evening.
If elected, Khan will become the first Muslim mayor of London or of any major European capital. Ahead of Election Day, Goldsmith's campaign was criticized for attempting to link Kahn to Islamic extremists—a strategy that seemed to have backfired.
Speaking in Sheffield, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said Tory candidate Mr Goldsmith's "smear" campaign in trying to link Mr Khan to "extremists" had helped Labour.
"This vile campaign run by the Tories, the way they've tried to smear Sadiq Khan, the methods they've used and the language they've used, has had a very big effect in exactly the way they didn't want.
"So many people are just revolted by what was said about Sadiq yesterday they came out and voted for us."
Writing last month at Little Atoms, advocacy journalist Mike Harris further explored how Khan's religion impacted the mayoral race.
London faces an imminent and real threat from jihadism. For too long, politicians from across the political spectrum – including the current Mayor Boris Johnson – have failed to confront the extremists in our midst, or give young British Muslims a compelling vision of their place in this great city. So London’s choice to elect a moderate, progressive centre-left Muslim on a programme that explicitly confronts the ideas that feed extremist ideology would give two fingers to Islamists. Khan’s victory would not embolden extremism, it would weaken it.
So the question for those who want to take on the extremists is this: if not Sadiq Khan, then tell me, when will you vote for a Muslim candidate?
Indeed, journalist and commentator Benjamin Butterworth wrote on Thursday: "Sadiq Khan is the candidate backing London's place as a leader in Europe and in the wider world. He understands that being diverse isn't a weakness of London's identity, it's our greatest selling point."
Butterworth continued, "As a young gay man in this city, it would be such a powerful message to have a Muslim mayor, so committed to LGBT rights that he had a fatwa placed on him for it. For me it speaks volumes: Sadiq Khan understands London's identity, and he's not afraid to stand up for it."
Khan's presumptive victory was a bright spot on a rough day for the Labour party, which was dealt a major blow in Scotland and lost council seats in both England and Wales. For that reason, Khan and Labour leader Corbyn were expected to appear together at some point on Friday.
Still, Corbyn struck a defiant note on Friday, saying "we hung on and we grew support in a lot of places."
The Guardian reports that Corbyn "claimed that retaining key English councils was a sign that voters felt the party was 'standing up' against Tory cuts, though he acknowledged it needed to rebuild in Scotland, where it fell behind the Conservatives."
Further countering the "Labour lost" spin, Guardian columnist Gary Younge wrote on Friday:
The reality was in fact far more mixed and, if anything, disproved many of the more well-worn scripts about what would happen to Labour if [Corbyn] won [the leadership contest]. The notion that under his leadership the party could not appeal to middle England has, for now, been discredited. It held on to councils in bellwether towns such as Nuneaton, Crawley, Stevenage, Harlow and Southampton. It also seems poised to win the London mayoralty – a feat the party has achieved only once in the previous four elections.
After eight months of relentless attacks in the media, along with carping and plotting from within the parliamentary Labour party and an election conducted in the midst of a scandal over accusations of antisemitism in the party, it did not crash and it did not burn. Voters did not leave in droves; the sky did not fall in. Indeed, given the calamity that was anticipated when he won the leadership election in September, the top line of the night is: “Labour viable under Corbyn”.
Watch Corbyn below: