LONDON: London’s new mayor Sadiq Khan thanked voters for choosing “unity over division” as he was elected on Saturday, becoming the first Muslim leader of a major Western capital.
In a second round run-off, the son of Pakistani immigrants beat Conservative multi-millionaire Zac Goldsmith with 57 per cent, or 1.3 million votes, giving him the largest personal mandate of any British politician.
Khan swept to victory despite repeated accusations from his rivals, including Prime Minister David Cameron, that he sympathised with Muslim extremists.
“This election was not without controversy and I am so proud that London has today chosen hope over fear and unity over division,” the 45-year-old said in his acceptance speech, to cheers from supporters.
New York, Paris mayors congratulate Sadiq Khan for winning election
“I hope that we will never be offered such a stark choice again. Fear doesn’t make us safer, it only makes us weaker, and the politics of fear is simply not welcome in our city.”
The victory offered some cheer for Labour after setbacks elsewhere following regional elections across Britain on Thursday, as a row over anti-Semitism in the party that has damaged leader Jeremy Corbyn continued to rage.
“Congratulations Sadiq Khan. Can’t wait to work with you to create a London that is fair for all,” Corbyn tweeted.
Khan replaces the charismatic Boris Johnson and ends the Conservatives’ eight-year hold on the London mayoralty, a position that has responsibility for transport, housing, policing and promoting economic development.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio was among the first to tweet his congratulations to “fellow affordable housing advocate, @SadiqKhan. Look forward to working together!”
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo added on Twitter that Khan’s “humanity, progressivism will benefit Londoners”.
The victory was also hailed in Tooting, a multi-ethnic area of south London where Khan lives and where he grew up in social housing, before becoming first a human rights lawyer and then a member of parliament.
“Sadiq Khan will have a unifying factor because he is Muslim, an immigrant, he is from (the) working class, so he understands the working class people and he can associate with them,” said Shahzad Saddiqui, a local businessman.