Britain is holding local elections today on what some have dubbed “Super Thursday,” but only one contest is worthy of the moniker: the race to succeed Boris Johnson as London’s mayor.
Mayoral elections rarely draw international attention. But the British capital is no ordinary city and its mayoralty is no ordinary office.
The current front-runner’s candidacy is interesting. Labour’s Sadiq Khan, a 45-year-old son of working-class Pakistani immigrants who fled the chaos of the partition of the Indian subcontinent in the 1940s, is poised to claim victory Thursday. He entered public life as a human-rights lawyer, taking on cases challenging racial discrimination and police brutality, before entering Parliament. From there, he rose rapidly to serve as a minister in Gordon Brown’s government and the Labour opposition thereafter, before gravitating toward a run for London’s highest office.
A victory by Khan would be a signal moment in both British and European politics, to say the least. One year after Labour’s thorough defeat in the general elections, retaking London City Hall would a much-needed boost for the party as it tacks to the left under Jeremy Corbyn, its leader. It would also usher in the first Muslim mayor of the European Union’s largest city, a historic milestone as the continent, much like Britain itself, wrestles with identity, immigration, and integration.
Khan, for his part, does not see his identity as a British Muslim in binary terms. “I’m a Londoner, I’m European, I’m British, I’m English, I’m of Islamic faith, of Asian origin, of Pakistani heritage, a dad, a husband,” he said in a New York Times interview. In the campaign, he’s emphasized core issues for Londoners such as affordable housing and transportation. But his overall message is one of cosmopolitanism and embracing London’s diversity. Read a full report at THE ATLANTIC.