Sadiq Khan’s victory sends a strong message against Brexit and in favor of the UK remaining in the EU.
On 5 May 2016, Londoners went to the polls to elect their new mayor. The election saw Sadiq Khan topping the polls and becoming the city’s new Mayor. His victory marked the end of an eight-year period of Conservative rule under Boris Johnson.
The run-up to the election
One could argue that the run-up to the mayoral election was actually a fight over Brexit. Sadiq Khan, the Labour candidate, held strong views against the Brexit. For him, the event of a Brexit would pose serious dangers to the UK’s economic as well as national security. In an op-ed he published in Evening Standard, he stated: “London is at a crossroads, and the future of our city is at stake. We need a mayor who will campaign for Britain to stay in Europe — and a mayor who will make our city better for all Londoners”
Khan’s main opponent was Zac Goldsmith, the candidate of the Conservative Party. Goldsmith’s views on Brexit were largely different from those of Khan. In a piece Goldsmith published in City A.M, he sought to explain the reasons why he chose to back Brexit. Inter alia, he stated: “It makes no sense for us to bind ourselves to a political bloc that is in decline; we should be free to trade with the fastest growing markets and to attract talent from around the world”.
As the electoral campaign was largely based on the debate of Brexit, the run-up to the 2016 London mayoral election became a political battlefield between supporters and opponents of EU membership; between the Remain campaign and the Leave campaign.
Why is Sadiq Khan’s victory important?
In light of the approaching EU referendum, one cannot help but wonder what the mayoral election result means for both sides of the EU membership campaign. The conclusion to be drawn is quite clear.
The majority of Londoners chose to vote for a candidate who strongly supports the UK’s EU membership. They chose to stay in the EU. The election result demonstrates this perfectly. The margin between the pro-EU Sadiq Khan and the supporter of the Leave campaign Zac Goldsmith was quite wide. According to BBC, Khan beat Goldsmith by 1,310,143 votes to 994,614.
Londoners’ preference for pro-EU candidates though, was evident already from the first round of the mayoral election. UKIP, a party that put leaving the EU at the centre of its electoral campaign, only gained the fifth place. The Liberals and Greens, two parties that support the UK’s EU membership, gained the third and fourth place. In addition, a survey conducted by YouGov before the election, reached similar conclusions. It demonstrated that the city of London is largely pro-EU.
Although the mayor of London does not have much power over the result of the referendum, a potential victory of Goldsmith, the pro-Brexit candidate, could have been interpreted as a symbolic defeat of the Bremain campaign. Khan’s victory is important as it sends a strong message against Brexit and in favour of the UK remaining in the EU.