LONDON: Sadiq Khan was sworn in as London mayor Saturday after being elected the first Muslim leader of a major Western capital, as the Conservatives defended attempts to link him to extremism during the campaign.
The opposition Labor lawmaker, the son of a Pakistani bus driver who grew up in social housing in the city, broke from convention by taking his oath of office in a multi-faith ceremony at Southwark Cathedral.
“My name is Sadiq Khan and I’m the mayor of London,” the 45-year-old said to cheers from supporters, who had earlier given him a standing ovation as he walked in.
He added: “I’m determined to lead the most transparent, engaged and accessible administration London has ever seen, and to represent every single community, and every single part of our city, as mayor for all Londoners.”
Khan won 57 percent of the vote in Thursday’s mayoral election, securing 1.3 million votes to see off multimillionaire Conservative Zac Goldsmith and make history as the city’s first Muslim mayor.
In his victory speech in the early hours of Saturday morning, Khan referenced the negative campaign against him by saying London had chosen “unity over division.”
Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron had led the attacks against Khan for sharing platforms with radical Muslims at public events.
There was criticism from across the political spectrum on Saturday at the tone of the Tory campaign, but Defense Secretary Michael Fallon insisted it was legitimate.
“Both candidates were asked questions about their backgrounds, their personalities, their judgment, the people they associate with,” he told BBC radio. “That’s the nature of our democracy and the rough-and-tumble of politics.”
Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic nominee for the US presidency, led international congratulations, tweeting: “Son of a Pakistani bus driver, champion of workers’ rights and human rights, and now Mayor of London. Congrats, @SadiqKhan. -H”
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said he was looking forward to working with his “fellow affordable-housing advocate,” while Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo tweeted that Khan’s “humanity (and) progressivism will benefit Londoners.”
In Pakistan, Bilawal Bhutto, leader of the opposition Pakistan People’s Party and son of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, and rival opposition leader Imran Khan also tweeted their congratulations.
Former Conservative government minister Sayeeda Warsi, herself a daughter of a Pakistani bus driver, hailed Khan’s victory and condemned her party’s attacks against him.
“Our appalling dog-whistle campaign lost us the election, our reputation and credibility on issues of race and religion,” she said.
Khan admitted representing some “pretty unsavory characters” during his previous job as a human-rights lawyer but said their views were “abhorrent” and condemned the Conservatives’ “desperate” attacks.