- Former transport minister on course to be first Muslim mayor
- Tory Goldsmith second, Green third, according to BBC website
Sadiq Khan, the opposition Labour Party’s candidate for mayor of London, was in the lead after first-preference votes were counted on Friday, putting him on course to beat the Conservatives’ Zac Goldsmith.
Khan, who has faced a Tory campaign that focused on his Islamic faith and questioned whether his links in the Muslim community made him a suitable person to keep the U.K. capital secure, had 1.15 million first-preference votes, or 44.2 percent, compared with 911,000, or 35 percent, for Goldsmith, the BBC reported.
Because he did not win more than 50 percent of the vote on first preferences, the second choices of those who voted for all other candidates apart from Khan and Goldsmith were being redistributed.
If he wins, Khan, who became the first Muslim to attend the prime minister’s cabinet in 2009, will be the most powerful Muslim in elected office in Britain, with responsibility for a budget of 17 billion pounds ($25 billion) and responsibility for policing, London’s transport network, planning and the environment.
Khan distanced himself from Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn during the campaign, even though he nominated the hard-line socialist for the leadership after Ed Miliband’s resignation last year. He said he did so to encourage debate in the party and that it was “ludicrous” to claim he was his close ally. Khan was helped when a leaked memo from Corbyn’s office referred to him as “hostile.”
The Tory campaign said Khan, a former human-rights lawyer, had “questions to answer” over Muslims he had shared platforms with and who, they alleged, had expressed extremist views.
Khan asked Labour activists not to rise to the Tory bait and to concentrate on his manifesto of providing affordable housing for Londoners, freezing fares on the capital’s transport network and promising to promote and support businesses.
Goldsmith’s campaign, which was run by colleagues of Prime Minister David Cameron’s campaign chief Lynton Crosby, was criticized privately by senior Conservatives who only spoke out in public after the polls closed on Thursday evening.
Goldsmith “was effectively saying that people of conservative religious views are not be trusted and you shouldn’t share a platform with them, it was outrageous,” Andrew Boff, leader of the Conservative group on the Greater London Assembly, told BBC Television. “Bridges that have been built” with the Muslim community “have been blown up by this campaign. A lot of us on the ground are going to have to spend a lot of time on trying to re-establish those links.”
Boff said the anti-Islamic tone of Goldsmith’s campaign had been brought up by voters on the doorstep.
The son of Pakistani immigrants, Khan grew up in social housing in Tooting, south London, the district he represents in the House of Commons. He worked as a human-rights lawyer before becoming a lawmaker and was a minister in Gordon Brown’s government.
Khan, who worked during the campaign to win support in London’s financial-services industry, has pledged to join the fight to keep Britain in the European Union in the referendum on June 23. If he becomes mayor, he said he will also make sure London is properly represented in Brussels, arguing that Johnson has failed to fight for the U.K. capital.
The final result is due to be announced later on Friday.