Sadiq Khan’s win looks good for Jeremy Corbyn, Zac Goldsmith (if he’s indeed the Conservative Mayoral candidate)…and, sadly, for communalism in London.
It’s good for Corbyn because, although Khan is a scarcely a hard-left refusenik, he was the more left-wing of the two main candidates. Sure, many of those who backed him will also have plumped for Burnham and Cooper. But the scale and reach of Khan’s triumph – he took almost 60 per cent of the vote in the final round, and reportedly won in all three sections eligible to vote – leaves Corbyn looking an even more likely victor tomorrow than he did earlier today.
It’s good for Goldsmith, if he is indeed the Conservative candidate, simply because polls have suggested that he would be more likely to beat Khan than he would Tessa Jowell. We know less about how the other three would-be Tory mayors – Andrew Boff, Stephen Greenhalgh, and Syed Kamall – would fare in a contest with Khan (not that we know all that much anyway).
And it’s good for communalism because Khan is, fairly or unfairly, believed to have a workable relationship with Britain’s Islamist movement – not, of course, ISIS or Al Qaeda-supporting groups but, rather, those close to the Muslim Brotherhood and the Jamaat Islami. The Khan camp itself is very conscious of this potential electoral problem, which is why he chose to write a major piece in the Jewish News promising that he would “stand up for Jewish Rights” and steer clear of foreign policy.
I shadowed Khan briefly when I was the Party’s community cohesion spokesman in the Commons, and he was certainly believed by most of my colleagues in the wider Home Affairs and CLG teams to have an easier relationship with those groups than Khalid Mahmood (who was and is an outspoken critic of theirs), Mohammed Sarwar or Shahid Malik, the other Muslim MPs in the Commons at the time.
As it happens, Khan has spoken out clearly against post-modern law applying in Britain: ‘I would be very concerned about sharia courts applying in the UK,” he said. He is in no sense an extremist – far from it. But the simple fact is that his candidacy is more likely to divide London’s voters along confessional lines than would have been the case had Jowell won.
Would not, it will be objected, a Kamall candidacy do the same – or that of any candidate from any faith community? I think not on the same scale, though some will disagree.