Opposition Labour lawmaker Sadiq Khan was elected mayor of London with 57 per cent of the vote, final results showed earlier yesterday, making him the first Muslim mayor of a major Western capital.
The 45-year-old son of a London bus driver and a seamstress won 1,310,143 votes against 994,614 for his main Conservative rival Zac Goldsmith, 41, the son a wealthy tycoon.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn hailed Khan’s win over Conservative Zac Goldsmith, after a bitter campaign in which Prime Minister David Cameron sought to link Khan to Islamic extremists.
“Congratulations Sadiq Khan. Can’t wait to work with you to create a London that is fair for all!” Corbyn wrote on Twitter ahead of the publication of final results.
After a negative campaign in which Khan was accused by his rival of sympathising with Islamic extremists, the 45-year-old former human rights lawyer promised in his acceptance speech to be a “mayor for all Londoners”.
“This election was not without controversy and I am so proud that London has today chosen hope over fear and unity over division,” he said after the result was declared at City Hall, to applause and cheers from supporters.
“I hope that we will never be offered such a stark choice again. Fear doesn’t make us safer, it only makes us weaker, and the politics of fear is simply not welcome in our city.”
As he was speaking the candidate for the far-right Britain First party, Paul Golding, who was lined up with the other loosing candidates behind Khan, turned his back.
The local MP for Tooting, Khan succeeds the charismatic Boris Johnson, an advocate of Britain’s departure from the European Union who is seen as one of the favourites to succeed Cameron.
Other mayors including Anne Hidalgo in Paris and Bill de Blasio in New York quickly congratulated Khan.
“Sending congratulations to London’s new mayor and fellow affordable housing advocate Sadiq Khan,” de Blasio said.
Corbyn, who has faced opposition from centrists in his party since becoming leader last year, insisted his party had “hung on” and surpassed expectations.
“All across England last night we were getting predictions that we were going to lose councils. We didn’t,” he said.
“We hung on and we grew support in a lot of places. “With results in from 110 out of 124 councils, Labour had 55, down one, and 1,176 seats, down 25.
Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives had control of an unchanged 30 councils and 650 seats, down 23.
A BBC projection suggested that Labour would win 31 percent of the vote share nationally compared to 30 percent for the Conservatives.
“The Labour Party is in serious trouble, although the likely election of a Labour candidate to be London mayor will distract from that,” said Matthew Goodwin, politics professor at Kent University.
The voting day dubbed “Super Thursday” in which 45 million Britons were eligible to vote came after a bitter few weeks of sniping between the Conservatives and Labour.
Corbyn set up an inquiry into anti-Semitism and racism in Labour after former London mayor Ken Livingstone was suspended for claiming Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler supported Zionism.
Several other Labour politicians were also suspended.
Cameron is also grappling with deep splits in his party ahead of the June 23 referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union.