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News > World

Muslim Overcomes Hate Campaign to Become London's Mayor

  • Sadiq Khan, Britain's Labour Party candidate for Mayor of London, speaks to supporters at Canary Wharf in London

    Sadiq Khan, Britain's Labour Party candidate for Mayor of London, speaks to supporters at Canary Wharf in London | Photo: Reuters

Published 6 May 2016

Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party defied expectations and Sadiq Khan ended Conservative Party rule in London.

In what some labeled the most racist British election campaign in years, Labour's Sadiq Khan won the London mayoralty on Friday to become the city’s first Muslim mayor.

The victory capped off a series of results where Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn defied expectations that his party would suffer serious losses due to his left-wing views.

John McDonnell, Labour's Finance spokesperson and a close Corbyn ally, said the results were a “success” noting how "pundits were predicting we’d be losing hundreds of seats and we haven’t, in fact we have gained many." He told the BBC that "If you compare from when Jeremy took over to now, we are on a clear path of improvement."

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In London, Khan, the son of an immigrant bus driver, was up against Conservative Zac Goldsmith, the elite-educated son of a billionaire financier. Khan ran with a message promoting a more equal London and contrasting his background with that of Goldsmith.

Goldsmith was slammed for an newspaper article linking his Labour rival Sadiq Khan to the 7/7 terrorist bombings that killed dozens in London in 2005. Goldsmiths said Khan has shared platforms with radical Muslim speakers and given "oxygen" to extremists — charges he has denied.

Even members of Goldsmith's own party hit out at him for running an "outrageous" anti-Muslim campaign. The Conservative leader in London Andrew Boff said Goldsmith had 'done real damage' to relations with London's Muslim communities.

However, left-wing commentator Owen Jones said Goldsmiths "anti-Muslim campaign was orchestrated by the Tory (Conservative party) leadership," and that the party’s leadership as a whole should take responsibility.

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The ruling Conservatives failed to make any big gains in England and Wales but made gains in Scotland, and leapfrogged Labour as the second-biggest party after the Scottish National Party.

Local elections have been seen as a test for Jeremy Corbyn, Labour's most left-wing leader in years, who has been leading since September. Corbyn has faced huge opposition from more Blairite sections of his party and a hostile press since being elected on a wave of enthusiasm, particularly among younger voters, for change and an end to "establishment politics."

His left-leaning stance has jarred with several lawmakers in parliament, some of whom have been looking for ways to topple Corbyn despite his strong backing from the trade unions, a major funder to the Labour Party.

Some Labour lawmakers said the results, which saw the party set to fall into third place in the devolved Scottish parliament, should force Corbyn to try to widen his appeal.

The local elections are the biggest in the U.K. outside of a general election. The U.K. will again head to the polls on June 23 for the long-awaited European Union Brexit referendum, where they will decide whether or not to remain in the EU.

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