Labour Party politician Sadiq Khan, the son of a bus driver from Pakistan, was elected as London’s first Muslim mayor Friday, as — with almost all of the vote counted — Conservative rival Zac Goldsmith could not catch him.
Khan had a substantial lead with first-preference votes counted in the London election. A final result was due overnight, once voters’ second preferences were factored in.
According to the Guardian, the provisional results gave Khan 44% of the vote, and Goldsmith just 35%.
Labour claimed victory on Friday night, with party leader Jeremy Corbyn congratulating Khan on Twitter.
— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) May 6, 2016
“Congratulations Sadiq Khan. Can’t wait to work with you to create a London that is fair for all!” Corbyn wrote, adding an image of himself standing with Khan.
The race to replace Conservative Mayor Boris Johnson was marred by American-style negative campaigning and allegations of extremism and fear-mongering.
Goldsmith, a millionaire environmentalist, described Khan as “dangerous” and accused his opponent of giving “platforms, oxygen and even cover” to Islamic extremists — a charge repeated by Prime Minister David Cameron and other senior Conservatives.
Khan, who calls himself “the British Muslim who will take the fight to the extremists,” accused Goldsmith of trying to scare and divide voters in a proudly multicultural city of 8.6 million people — more than 1 million of them Muslims.
Khan’s win was a ray of light for Labour, which was trounced in Scotland but lost fewer seats than many expected elsewhere in local and regional elections that underscored Britain’s political divisions. The party was pushed to third place in Scotland — where it was once dominant.
The Conservatives under popular Scottish leader Ruth Davidson became the main opposition in Scotland’s Edinburgh-based parliament — an unprecedented situation in a region that had shunned the party for decades after governments of former prime minister Margaret Thatcher, whose policies cost thousands of jobs in mining and heavy industries.
The pro-independence Scottish National Party secured a third term in government in the county’s parliamentary elections, but failed by two seats to retain a majority.
SNP Leader Nicola Sturgeon said the party had “won a clear and unequivocal mandate” and would form a minority government rather than seek a coalition.
Thursday’s elections for local authorities and regional assemblies demonstrated the complexity of British politics in the final weeks before Britons vote on June 23 on whether the country should remain in the European Union.
The strength of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is under particular scrutiny in this first nationwide poll since he became leader last year.
While Labour’s losses in Scotland were humiliating, the party fared less badly overall than many had predicted. It lost only a handful of council seats and held on to control of major English cities including Birmingham, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Sunderland.
Corbyn said the party had “a lot of building to do” in Scotland, but said he was pleased with results in England.
“We hung on and we grew support in a lot of places,” he said.
The results will do little to soothe restive Labour lawmakers who think Corbyn’s left-wing policies are a turn-off for many voters.
Ashton said that critics who want to “use the results as leverage to call for a leadership challenge are likely to be disappointed.”
“Their argument that Labour should be doing better, though, especially considering Conservative divisions over Europe in recent weeks, will continue to resonate,” he said.
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