Who is Sadiq Khan, the new Mayor of London

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The new Mayor of London

The new Mayor of London

The new mayor did not have a privileged start in life. He was one of eight children born to Pakistani immigrants, a bus driver and a seamstress, on a south London housing estate.

From an early age, he showed a firm resolve to defy the odds in order to win success for himself and the causes important to him.

That resolve has won him the biggest personal mandate in the UK, a job with wide-ranging powers over London and with enormous emotional significance for him.

Screenshot_2016-05-07-04-02-44-1Some question whether he has the experience or record of good judgement necessary for the role.

He insists he is there to represent all Londoners and to tackle inequality in the capital, and now he has the chance to prove it.

Age: 45

Marital status: Married with two daughters

Political party: Labour

Time as MP: Has represented Tooting in south London since 2005

Previous jobs: Human rights solicitor, chair of Liberty

“Son of a bus driver” became one of the most hackneyed phrases in Mr Khan’s time on the stump – so overused in his leaflets and speeches that he was eventually forced to make fun of his own campaign, joking he had given the Daily Mirror an “exclusive” on his background.

But his parents’ story holds real significance for him. Amanullah and Sehrun Khan emigrated from Pakistan to London shortly before Sadiq was born, in 1970. He was the fifth of their eight children – seven sons and a daughter.

Screenshot_2016-05-07-04-00-32-1He has often said that his early impressions of the world of work shaped his belief in the trade union movement. His father, a bus driver for 25 years, “was in a union and got decent pay and conditions” whereas his mum, a stay-at-home seamstress, “wasn’t, and didn’t”.

He lived with his parents and siblings in a cramped three-bedroomed house on the Henry Prince Estate in Earlsfield, south-west London, sharing a bunkbed with one of his brothers until he left home in his 20s.

He attended the local comprehensive, Ernest Bevin College, which he describes as “a tough school – it wasn’t always a bed of roses”. The nickname “Bevin boys” was at that time in that part of south London a byword for bad behaviour.

Screenshot_2016-05-07-04-05-52-1It was at school that he first began to gravitate towards politics, joining the Labour Party aged 15. He credits the school’s head, Naz Bokhari, who happened to be the first Muslim headteacher at a UK secondary school, with making him realise “skin colour or background wasn’t a barrier to making something with your life”.

Mr Khan was raised a Muslim and has never shied away from acknowledging the importance of his faith. In his maiden speech as an MP he spoke about his father teaching him Mohammed’s sayings, or hadiths – in particular the principle that “if one sees something wrong, one has the duty to try to change it”.

He was an able student who loved football, boxing and cricket – he even had a trial for Surrey County Cricket Club as a teenager. He has since spoken about the racist abuse he and his brothers faced at Wimbledon and Chelsea football matches, saying he felt “safer” watching at home and became a Liverpool fan simply “because they were playing such great football at the time”.

He studied maths and science at A-level with the idea of becoming a dentist. He was switched on to law by a teacher who told him “you’re always arguing” – and by the TV programme LA Law, starring Jimmy Smits as Victor Sifuentes, a charismatic partner in a California law firm.

“LA law was about lawyers in LA who do great cases, act for the underdog, drove nice cars, look great and I wanted to be Sifuentes,” Mr Khan told Business Insider recently

He studied law at the University of North London and put his degree to good use straight away, becoming a trainee solicitor in 1994 at Christian Fisher under the human rights lawyer Louise Christian.

The same year he met and married his wife Saadiya Ahmed, a fellow solicitor and coincidentally the daughter of a bus driver – with whom he went on to have two daughters, Anisah and Ammarah. He also began his 12-year stint as a councillor for Tooting, encouraged by Guyanan-born local activist Bert Luthers.

Just three years later, aged 27, he was made an equity partner and the firm was renamed Christian Khan.

During this time he worked on a number of high-profile cases: he won compensation for Kenneth Hsu, a hairdresser wrongly arrested and assaulted by the police; teachers and lawyers who had experienced racial discrimination; Leroy Logan, a senior black police officer accused of fraud; corrupt formerMet Police commander Ali Dizaei; and helpedoverturn an exclusion order (later upheld on appeal) on US political activist Louis Farrakhan.

The irony of a man who represented people in cases against the Met going on to become the force’s chief scrutineer has not been lost on his opponents. Conservative candidate Zac Goldsmith, speaking at an event alongside Home Secretary Theresa May, recently characterised Mr Khan’s legal career as “coaching people in suing our police”.

He left his law firm somewhat abruptly in 2004, afterwards telling the Law Gazette: “If you’re in government, you’re a legislator and you have the opportunity to make laws that can improve things for millions of people.”

In 2005, Mr Khan fought and retained the marginal seat of Tooting for Labour, one of five new ethnic minority MPs elected that year.

Contemporaries on either side of the political divide remember being impressed by a “fiercely bright” and “persuasive” individual who was “impossible not to listen to”.

He combines that sharpness with what is often called his “cheeky chappy” demeanour. He is fond of calling people “mate” and has even done so on the floor of the Commons

‘Voice of reason’

Two months after he entered the Commons, he was thrust into the limelight by the 7 July bombings.

When Parliament met to discuss the attacks, he told MPs: “Today Londoners and the rest of the UK have even more reason to be proud of Londoners – proud of the way heroic Londoners of all faiths, races and backgrounds, victims, survivors and passers-by, acted on Thursday; proud of the way ordinary courageous Londoners carried on with their business and stopped the criminals disrupting our life.”

In a 2010 Guardian interview, he recalled thinking: “I couldn’t hide – and I don’t mean this in an arrogant way, but there were so few articulate voices of reason from the British Muslim community.

“There were angry men with beards, but nobody saying, ‘Actually, I’m very comfortable being a Brit, being a Muslim, being a Londoner’.”

The intervention marked him out as one to watch, but his path to promotion was not altogether smooth.

When Gordon Brown took over at Number 10, Mr Khan was given his first job in government as a whip and then as communities minister, a move that created disquiet among some other MPs in the capital who had been around for longer.

A post at the Department for Transport followed in 2009 and he became the first Muslim in the Cabinet. This was at a time when there were only four Muslim MPs and he was often confused for international development minister Shahid Malik.


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Start: 2019-07-01 End: 2019-07-31