London : The son of a Pakistani bus driver looks set to be elected as London’s first Muslim mayor; he will be the first such leader of a European Union capital. The local election results will be out on Thursdays
On the eve of polls, Labour party candidate Sadiq Khan was leading in most surveys by a minimum of nine points over his Conservative party rival Zac Goldsmith. Khan’s lead has been fairly consistent throughout the mayoral campaign, despite his party being embroiled in an unseemly anti-Semitic row over the last week.
The 45-year-old was himself accused of racism as a video emerged of him referring to moderate Muslims as “Uncle Toms”. “I do regret using the phrase and I am sorry,” he said in a BBC radio interview but went on to accuse his rival, the son of late billionaire Sir James Goldsmith and brother of Jemima Khan, of using “divisive and increasingly desperate” tactics.
“We need a mayor that will unite us, not divide us… I’ve had seven months of negative, divisive and increasingly desperate stuff from him,” he said.
He also addressed Hindu and Sikh voters directly to say that he had no plans to “tax or nick their gold”, in reference to some Goldsmith campaign leaflets which had implied that Khan would go after London’s minority communities who tend to have gold reserves in temples and at home. Khan is a former human rights lawyer and an MP from Tooting, east London, since 2005. He was a prominent figure in former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s Cabinet and had resigned from the shadow Cabinet last year to launch his campaign to replace Boris Johnson – whose second and final term as London mayor comes to an end this week. He has relied on his working class roots and upbringing on a London council housing estate as strong credentials against Goldsmith’s more privileged background. Goldsmith, the Oxford-educated billionaire, has tried to cash in on Narendra Modi’s popularity among Indian-origin Londoners and issued leaflets with an image of him shaking hands with the Indian Prime Minister during the latter’s visit to the UK. The message read: “Standing up for the British Indian community.” But while it seems his tactics seem to have had little effect on voters, poll pundits warn that the race is far from over as a low turnout could change things around at the last minute.