London has made history by electing the Labour Party’s Sadiq Khan as its first Muslim mayor.
The 45-year-old son of an immigrant bus driver comfortably beat his Conservative opponent, Zac Goldsmith, a 41-year-old son of a billionaire financier. Khan won 57% of the vote.
The divisive race was marred with accusations of Islamophobia and extremism from both candidates. Goldsmith was slammed by senior members from his party for describing Khan as a “radical” candidate. Goldsmith wrote an op-ed titled “Are we really going to hand the world’s greatest city to a Labour party that thinks terrorists are its friends?” with an image of the July 7 suicide bombings that rocked central London in 2005.
In the end, Londoners chose Khan, who has been a British MP for Tooting, in South London, since 2005. Voters chose “hope over fear, and unity over division,” Khan said in his acceptance speech at City Hall.
Khan studied law at a university in London and practiced human rights law for several years before trying his hand at politics. In 2008, he became the second Muslim to serve in government as the communities minister—and the first to attend cabinet and therefore become a privy counselor, an elite circle of senior politicians who have access to state secrets and have to swear an oath of loyalty to the queen. When he was called and asked what type of Bible he wanted to swear on, he reportedly told the palace he needed the Quran. When they said they didn’t have one, Khan brought his own.
He voted for gay marriage in 2013, which saw him inundated with death threats.
The born-and-bred Londoner, one of eight children, has been described as the “torch-bearer for the social democratic wing” of the Labour Party—a moderate, distant from Labour’s leftist leader Jeremy Corbyn. Khan’s victory sees London’s City Hall pass from Conservative Boris Johnson to the Labour Party, which created the position in 2000.
In his mayoral campaign, Khan promised to unite the capital, a cosmopolitan global metropolis of almost 8 million people, and be “the most pro-business mayor yet.” Whereas Johnson has become the de facto leader of the movement to leave the European Union in next month’s referendum, Khan backs staying in.
The Labour man has vowed to tackle the shortage of affordable housing, a situation that forces some Londoners to rent a tent in someone’s living room for £550 ($798) a month, plus bills. He has also pledged to freeze fares on London buses and tubes until 2020, and promised a no-tolerance approach to hate crime.