Khan Promises to Mayor for all Londoners

Sadiq Khan’s life to date has been characterised by beating the odds – which is what he has just done to become mayor of London.

When Labour politicians put themselves forward to run for mayor last year, Mr Khan was far from being the favourite. The bookies’ money was on Baroness Jowell, a veteran of the Tony Blair years who had helped bring the Olympics to London.

But if there is a pattern in Mr. Khan’s career, it’s one of coming from behind.

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.

Some 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:

Newly Elected London Mayor Sadiq Khan
Newly Elected London Mayor Sadiq Khan

Sadiq Khan:

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.

He 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.

It 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”.

‘Huge moment’

Another London Labour MP born to immigrant parents, David Lammy, told the BBC Mr Khan’s election was a “huge moment” and predicted: “If we ever see a black or Asian prime minister in this country I have no doubt they will owe an enormous debt to Sadiq Khan.”

Now, the boy from Tooting will have to prove himself all over again.

Love them or loathe them, the mayor’s predecessors Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone – the only other men to have done the job – are political heavyweights.

Even within his own party, Mr Khan has been accused of lacking vision. The perception of him as inexperienced also lingers on.

Credit: BBC