Mr Sadiq Khan, 45, a former Labour cabinet minister, and currently the Labour MP for Tooting in south London, made history by being elected Mayor, after one of the most bitterly-fought elections of recent decades.
Mr Khan became Britain’s most powerful Muslim politician after a landslide win over Conservative rival Zac Goldsmith. He gained more than 1.1 million votes, single largest mandate for any individual politician in British history. He succeeds the Conservative Boris Johnson who has been mayor for the last 8 years.
A vicious maligning campaign by Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative Party, attempted to link the South Londoner to terrorism and extremists. It claimed that Khan could not be trusted to protect London’s 8.5 million inhabitants.
His opponent Goldsmith accused Mr Khan of associating with Islamists in the past and ‘legitimising’ extremist views. Mr Goldsmith said that Mr Khan had given platforms to extremists and ‘that is dangerous’. His assertion was based on the fact that Khan had shared a platform nine times with Sulaiman Gani, who was accused by UK Prime Minister David Cameron of supporting Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil).
The Prime Minister said he was ‘concerned’ about Mr Khan’s association with Mr Gani – but it emerged that Mr Gani is a Conservative Party supporter who had met Cameron too.
The Tories also pointed out that Mr Khan had shared platforms with four other hardliners, including a member of the banned organisation al-Muhajiroun who reportedly trained one of the 7/7 bombers.
In response, Mr Khan said he had ‘never hidden’ the fact that as a former chairman of Liberty and a human rights lawyer, he had acted for ‘some pretty unsavoury characters’. He clarified his stand and added, “I regret giving the impression I subscribed to their views and I’ve been quite clear I find their views abhorrent.”
The Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said, “[Zac Goldsmith’s] 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.”
Many senior Tories labelled these strategies outrageous and appalling and admitted that the divisive campaign had only served to drive voters away from the party and that Mr Goldsmith should have concentrated instead on condemning Mr Khan’s policies on transport, finance and housing.
Khan, the Muslim son of an immigrant bus driver who has denounced Islamist extremism, used his victory speech to praise London for resisting Goldsmith’s tactics. He said, “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.”
In his role as Mayor, Sadiq Khan will command a $23 billion annual budget and oversee London’s policing, housing, and transport infrastructure.
A Downing Street source said the defeat is disappointing for Conservative Party, but the government would work closely with newly elected Mayor to deliver on the priorities for the people of London. When asked about the opposition of Sadiq Khan in meetings, the spokesman said, “The mayor of London would of course be invited to attend COBRA meetings when it is necessary and required. There is no set attendance list for COBRA meetings – attendees are decided on a case by case basis depending on the crisis situation that is being managed.”
However, a source also said: “We don’t back away from the questions we raised during the campaign,” making it clear that David Cameron would not be withdrawing his criticisms, and that the Tories plan to use Mr Khan’s controversial past in future attempts to undermine him.
Mr Khan’s election did not receive a very warm response from some in the U.S. The Drudge Report website described him as the ‘First Muslim Mayor Of Londonistan’ and he was called ‘an Islamist’ by one major TV network.