Londoners Could Elect City's First Muslim Mayor
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
Londoners vote for their new mayor tomorrow. Labour candidate Sadiq Khan is currently leading the polls by double digits. Mr. Khan would be the first Muslim mayor of the city even as his conservative opponents have tried to link him to Islamic radicals. We're joined now by Pippa Crerar, city hall editor of the London Evening Standard. Pippa, thanks for joining us.
PIPPA CRERAR: You're welcome.
SIEGEL: First tell us; who is Sadiq Khan? Tell us a bit about his background.
CRERAR: Well, Sadiq Khan is a Labour MP - so the political party to the left of British politics. He was born in South London to immigrant parents. His father was a bus driver. He lived in public housing and went through the state sector schooling system and managed to get to university and land a good job as a lawyer and eventually become an MP.
And in fact, he was Britain first Muslim cabinet minister under Corbin Frank. So the message that he is trying to put out to London and has done throughout this campaign is that he wants to extend the sort of opportunities that he had to every Londoner.
SIEGEL: What kind of policies does he advocate that he says would do that?
CRERAR: So the next mayor would be responsible for policing, for transport, for housing and for the environment. And in each of those areas, he's put forward solutions to some of the biggest problems.
So for example in housing, London's experiencing a terrible housing crisis at the moment. Affordability is off the scale. Many people are struggling not just to get onto the housing ladder but to find somewhere decent to rent. So Sadiq has said that he would create a London living rent which would be set at a proportion of average local market rates to make it more affordable for Londoners to get on the housing ladder. That sort of mission is replicated right across his policies.
SIEGEL: Well, let's talk about his conservative opponent - Sadiq Khan's conservative opponent Zac Goldsmith. What is he campaigning on, and what does he say about Khan?
CRERAR: Well, Zac Goldsmith is a very different ilk from Sadiq Khan. He was the son of a billionaire financier. He's got showbiz contacts. So his back story's very different, and that obviously has had an impact in the race.
Zac's policies are much more focused on issues like, for example, the environment. I mean, he has always been known - always had a reputation in Parliament - because he's also member of Parliament - for being independent-minded and putting the environment first. He's a lifelong green supporter. So there'll definitely be a more environmental tinge to all of his policies.
SIEGEL: What about these allegations that Sadiq Khan is somehow linked to Muslim extremists?
CRERAR: Well, it's true that Sadiq Khan has appeared on a platform at events with various Islamist extremists, but his - he claims that he did this because in his previous life before he entered politics, he was chair of a human rights organization and a human rights lawyer and that he can't be held responsible for the views of other people.
The conservatives say it's a matter of judgment and the Labour are screaming racism in order to block their mask of perfectly legitimate questions. But it's been a pretty unpleasant ride, to be honest, and it's cast a shadow over the whole campaign. Whoever's elected mayor is going to have to do some healing between London's different communities as a result.
SIEGEL: So since Sadiq Khan is expected to win, what would his election as mayor mean for London, do you think?
CRERAR: If Sadiq Khan, as everyone thinks is going to be the case, becomes the next mayor of London, then it sends out a huge message globally because London will have elected a Muslim mayor or rather a mayor that happens to be Muslim - elected him obviously for his policies - despite the fact that the city has, in the past, experienced terrorism and could have turned in on itself but instead decides to face outwards and show how diverse and open it to have voted for somebody who will be a beacon, really, for freedom and tolerance.
SIEGEL: Pippa Crerar, city hall editor for the London Evening Standard, thanks for talking with us.
CRERAR: Thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.