Labour’s Sadiq Khan first Muslim to become London mayor

Labour loses control of just one council which Corbyn says is proof of support

Labour’s Sadiq Khan has become the first Muslim mayor of a major European capital. Video: Reuters

Labour's Sadiq Khan has become the first Muslim mayor of a major European capital, defeating Tory Zac Goldsmith to regain the London mayoralty after eight years of Conservative rule under Boris Johnson.

Mr Khan won 44 per cent of the first preference votes to Mr Goldsmith’s 35 per cent.

Mr Khan faced a Conservative campaign that sought to link him with Islamic extremists, despite the Labour candidate's support for liberal causes such as marriage equality.

Andrew Boff, a former Conservative leader in the London assembly, described Mr Goldsmith's campaign as outrageous and said it probably cost the party votes.


“I hope we don’t do this stupid thing again by trying to bring Sadiq down by saying he is an extremist,” Mr Boff said. “He is not an extremist. He went out and engaged with people with orthodox religious views.”

Mr Khan’s victory provided a good end to the day for Labour, which lost far fewer English council seats than expected and retained control of only one fewer council than before.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn claimed the results showed that voters in England approved of the party's opposition to the Conservatives' cuts to public services.

“All across England last night we were getting predictions that Labour was going to lose councils. We didn’t. We hung on and we grew support in a lot of places,” Mr Corbyn said.

Scottish rebuilding

“There is a lot of building to do in Scotland,” he added. “We are going to be with you, we are going to walk hand in hand with our party in Scotland to build that support once again so that the Labour tradition in Scotland will be re-established.”

Mr Corbyn’s critics within Labour pointed out that he was the first recent party leader to lose council seats in his first year in the job. Although Labour fared relatively well in the south of England, its performance in the midlands was more disappointing.

A number of midlands MPs criticised party leadership and one, Walsall North's David Winnick, said Mr Corbyn should think about stepping down.

“The party faces a crisis and the onus is on Jeremy himself,” Mr Winnick told the Press Association. “He should decide whether his leadership is helping or hindering the party. I think all the evidence shows that it is not helping.”

Mr Corbyn’s allies rallied to his defence, with shadow chancellor John McDonnell calling on the leader’s critics to “put up or shut up”.

Fared well

Mr McDonnell said that Labour had fared well on Thursday despite a campaign by some Labour MPs to undermine their leader.

“I’ve been talking to Labour party members all over the country,” he said. “They’re saying for those begrudgers – because that’s what they are – for goodness sake, get behind the leader of the Labour Party that was democratically elected. It’s time to put up or shut up.

“I think most Labour Party members are saying look, you’re damaging our campaign by the continuous carping.”

The Conservatives lost more English council seats than Labour, but prime minister David Cameron hailed the party's performance as a triumph after six years in government.

Meeting party workers in Peterborough, which the Conservatives won control of , Mr Cameron said Labour had lost touch with voters. And he noted that local elections were usually a day of dread for sitting prime ministers.

“It is meant to be a day where you are sitting there waiting for someone to knock on the door like the condemned man waiting for the hangman. But that wasn’t what it was like.”

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton is China Correspondent of The Irish Times