In an unexpected landslide, a Muslim candidate has won the Labor Party's nomination for Mayor of London.
Sadiq Khan, a member of Parliament in south London, won the party's primary Friday, capitalizing on a shift to the left among party members. He is the first Muslim nominee of a major party in the race for the capital's mayor, and if elected, he would immediately become one of the most prominent Muslim politicians in Europe.
He defeated Tessa Jowell, a former member of Parliament who had led in almost every poll, 59% to 51%. Just a few days ago, London newspapers printed headlines like, "Tessa Jowell to become next Mayor of London, according to analysis of polls."
“Like so many Londoners, I owe London everything,” Khan said in his acceptance speech. “I am determined to repay your faith by winning the mayoral election next May, and making a real difference to Londoners' lives." He said his priorities include creating more affordable housing and raising wages.
Observers attributed Khan's win to the parallel race for the Labor Party's nomination for Prime Minister, in which a leftist candidate, Jeremy Corbyn, has attracted many new voters to the party. Khan is seen as more liberal than Jowell.
A former minister of transport and human rights lawyer, Khan, 44, represented victims of employment discrimination and cases against the police. He's the son of Pakistani immigrants, and his father was a London bus driver.
A poll released last month found that almost a third of Londoners said they would be "uncomfortable" with a Muslim mayor. But Khan's faith didn't seem to be a major factor in the primary election, and his big win suggests a different takeaway.
Another Muslim candidate, Syed Kamall, a leader of the European Parliament, is facing off in the Conservative party selection for the mayoral nomination. He tweeted about Khan's victory today:
Kamall faces what appears to be an even more uphill race than Khan—Zac Goldsmith, a member of Parliament and a former journalist, is far ahead in the polls in that race, which will be decided later this month.
The general election will be held next May. Some supporters of Khan said on Twitter that he would be the perfect match for Goldsmith, an Eton-educated son of billionaire tycoon James Goldsmith:
Casey Tolan is a National News Reporter for Fusion based in New York City.