Guest Editorial: Cheers for London's new leader

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
May 12
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The victory of Sadiq Khan of the Labour Party, a Muslim who grew up in a public-housing project, over Zac Goldsmith, a Conservative and heir to a fortune, in last Thursday’s contest for mayor of London conveys a number of messages.

The first is evidence of tolerance on the part of the voters of London. In the global city of 8.65 million, about 12 percent of the population is Muslim. Khan, the son of a bus driver of Pakistani origin, took 57 percent of the vote, to Goldsmith’s 43 percent.

Even though the speeches in the campaign included some nasty religious and ethnic rhetoric, it is likely that Khan won because his experience addressed two of Londoners’ apparent major concerns — housing and transportation.

A member of Parliament since 2005, he had served as minister of transport in an earlier Labour government and had previously made a career as a human rights lawyer. Goldsmith, a member of Parliament since 2010, inherited millions from his father, the financier and politician Sir James Goldsmith.

Khan, 45, will succeed the current mayor, Boris Johnson, a Conservative. In that sense the new mayor’s political party can take consolation from his victory, given that it in general took a beating in Thursday’s elections, particularly in Scotland.

The current major political scrap in the United Kingdom turns on different politicians’ views on the question of whether it should stay in or exit the European Union. Johnson and the unsuccessful candidate, Goldsmith, favor “Brexit,” in opposition to the position of Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron, reflecting discord in the party. The referendum is scheduled for June 23.

Khan’s victory would seem to strengthen the hand of those favoring that Britain remain in the EU.

His victory has to be seen as a triumph of reasonableness over what was called “the politics of fear” in the London elections. He has not hesitated to take dead aim at the position of U.S. presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump, who has said he favors barring the entry of Muslims into the United States, at least in the short run.

Khan has called Trump’s an “ignorant view of Islam” and says he plans to visit the United States, wishing to learn from mayors of large cities, before the possible inauguration of Trump in January.