London gets its First Muslim Mayor

“I am deeply humbled by the hope and trust that Londoners have placed in me.

“Some of you may not know this, but I grew up on a council estate, just a few miles from here. Back then, I never dreamt that I could be standing here as the Mayor of London.

“And my burning ambition for our city, which will guide my mayoralty is to ensure that all Londoners get the opportunities that our city gave to me.”

When the newly-elected Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said these words at his swearing-in ceremony yesterday , there was much applause, again and again, from his audience.  And that, I think, is well-deserved.

As the son of a bus driver and a seamstress from Pakistan, Sadiq Khan would now be completely different, in style and background, when compared with his predecessor, the Old Etonian Boris Johnson.

But Sadiq Khan has made it. And he made it big. With this election, he suddenly raised the hopes, and inspired the dreams, of millions of immigrants, showing them that hard work and determination can take anyone to high places.

He made history by becoming the first Muslim to this position. And, by garnering a record number of votes for any single politician, he also broke another record in UK’s political history.

What is amazing is not just that. His win is in an amazing contrast to his party’s overall performance. It proves his special charm or grit, depending on how you wish to take it.

He is from the Labour Party. But when we look at the overall performance of his party, we can see that it  was beaten to second place by the Conservatives in the Scottish Parliament elections, this year.

His party also lost 23 seats in the council elections in England. And it also failed to secure a majority in Wales, where UKIP (United Kingdom Independence Party) saw a huge gain.

So, what made him different, from the rest of his party?

We can get it from the horse’s mouth itself. Because he wrote an op-ed column in ‘The Observer’ the day after he won the election, and he said this:  “Labour has to be a big tent that appeals to everyone – not just its activists. Campaigns that deliberately turn their back on particular groups are doomed to fail. Just like in London, so-called natural Labour voters alone will never be enough to win a general election.

“We must be able to persuade people who previously voted Conservative that Labour can be trusted with the economy and security, as well as improving public services and creating a fairer society”.

No wonder he beat his Conservative rival Zac Goldsmith by a total of 315,529 votes. He received 1,310,143 votes, higher than for any previous London Mayor.

Quite clearly, he steer-managed his election campaign to victory by appealing to not only to regular labour party voters, but also to long term conservatives. And, more interestingly, even to British Jews.

During the election campaign, he went out of his way to court the Jewish community and instantly denounced the view of his predecessor, Ken Livingstone, that “Hitler supported Zionism”, and he also said he was against anti-Semitism within the Labour Party.”  

In fact, Khan’s first official engagement was the Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony in Barnet. He seems to be telling UK’s Jewish community of his desire to heal rifts over allegations of anti-Semitism in the Labour party. He met the chief rabbi, Holocaust survivors and Israel’s ambassador.

Very soon , as he walks into London’s City Hall he will have the controlling power over a budget of £17 billion on transport, policing and planning.

And that is no mean achievement for someone with absolutely no local roots in London.

This election is a pride not only for all the fraternity of this 45 year old human rights lawyer who studied law at the University of North London, but also an inspiration to every immigrant that he or she can dream big.