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Sadiq Khan was elected mayor of London last Thursday. His victory is a vote for intelligence and tolerance: Khan is the first Muslim to be elected to the office, and is the first Muslim to be elected mayor of a major European capital. The campaign was an ugly affair, punctuated by dog whistles and attempted smears. London’s voters rightly rejected such tactics. We hope voters elsewhere will prove equally resistant to such maneuvers.

Khan was an attractive candidate. He is the son of a bus driver from Pakistan, the fifth of eight children, grew up in public housing and became a human rights lawyer. He was first elected to parliament in 2005 from his home constituency of Tooting, and was appointed a junior minister in 2008, and minister for transport in 2009 under Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown. He became the first Muslim to attend Cabinet meetings regularly and was admitted to the Privy Council.

While the image of London for most nonresidents is that of the starched financier dressed in bespoke clothes, in fact “white British” only make up 45 percent of the city’s population. Thirty-five percent of Londoners were born overseas. Khan’s story and narrative have a wide-ranging appeal to this audience. Moreover, London, like many large metropolitan areas, leans to the left, making it a more natural Labour constituency.

If there was a potential downside to the Khan campaign, it was his faith. Khan is a Muslim — like 12.5 percent of London’s population — and there was a fear that this could undermine his appeal to non-Islamic voters after recent attacks by Islamic radicals in European capitals. But Khan emphasized the many layers of his identify — Londoner, European, Muslim, father, husband and Liverpool supporter — and was also vocal in his readiness to be “the British Muslim who will take his fight to the extremists.”

Khan’s opponent, Zac Goldsmith, is a thoughtful member of parliament who supported environmentalist causes and is also the son of a billionaire financier. While no wild-eyed radical — he does favor Britain’s exit from the European Union — his campaign was damaged by the tactics he used, which resorted in the last instance to guilt by association. Goldsmith pointed to pictures of Khan with a radical Muslim cleric, insinuating a convergence of views. Khan conceded that he associated with some “unsavory individuals” but said that was to be expected of a human rights lawyer. He denied backing their cause — and left it to others to note that there are pictures of Goldsmith with the same cleric.

The result was a resounding win for Khan, who gained 1.31 million votes against 995,000 for Goldsmith. Voters rejected the charges of guilt by insinuation and focused instead on Khan’s liberal world view (consistent with that of a Labour MP): support for gay marriage, his rejection of anti-Semitism within the Labour Party and a call for more attention to the bread and butter issues that dominate the daily life of Londoners, such as the price of housing and public transport.

He is pro-business in orientation, which is absolutely necessary given the limits on his power as mayor and the scale of the challenges he faces. Tackling them demands the harnessing of entrepreneurial energies and partnership with the companies that make London their home. They too have a stake in solutions to local problems. Some critics complain that he is quick to change his views: What they call unprincipled, he considers flexible and open minded.

Khan’s victory was important for the Labour Party, which has struggled under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn. Since he was elected party leader in the aftermath of Labour’s defeat in national elections in 2015, the party has struggled. Corbyn has been charged with clinging to an outdated form of left-wing politics, and is accused of being out of touch with British sentiment. Last week’s ballots were local elections that are usually considered an opportunity for voters to voice their displeasure against the government party. In the 2012 local elections, when Ed Miliband led the party, Labour picked up 857 seats. But Labour took a beating across the country, losing seats in England, Scotland and Wales. Experts reckoned that Labour needed to win at least 300 seats to lay the ground for a victory in national elections in 2020; preliminary estimates show the party lost seats, instead.

There is a sad symmetry in British politics: the Labour Party has been wracked by charges of anti-Semitism at the same time that Conservatives blew dog whistles at Khan. To their credit, a number of Conservatives denounced their party’s tactics and warned that it would do enduring damage to their party. More importantly, London’s voters were equally quick to dismiss that ploy and looked instead at the entire picture of the candidate. The result has been a resounding victory for Khan, and an opportunity for an ambitious politician who could have Corbyn’s job in his sights.

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