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Who is Sadiq Khan, the son of a Pakistani bus driver and London’s new mayor

Sadiq Khan is the new mayor of London. Human rights lawyer, Muslim of Pakistani origin, working class parents. Unlike any leader the city has seen before.

Son of a bus driver“. This is how Sadiq Khan, the new Mayor of London, has described himself repeatedly throughout his political career. He was sworn in on the 7th of May in a ceremony held in Southwark Cathedral, becoming the first Muslim mayor of a major Western capital.

 

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Sadiq Khan attends an official signing ceremony at Southwark Cathedral © Yui Mok – WPA Pool /Getty Images

 

Of humble and immigrant origins, his ascent to success has all the ingredients of an urban fairy tale. One set in a great city, London, where the son of a Pakistani bus driver and seamstress can become its most powerful citizen.

 

 

Immigrant and working class origins

Khan’s devotion to politics stems from a young age: he joined the Labour Party when he was only 15. At the time he was living with his seven brothers and one sister in a three-bedroom council house in Earlsfield, southwest London. His mother and father, Sehrun and Amanullah Khan, had moved there from Pakistan in the 1960s shortly before the now-mayor was born.  

 

Khan was raised a Muslim and was influenced by its principles of social justice. His parents’ jobs also deeply affected him. His father, a bus driver for 25 years, “was in a union and got decent pay and conditions”. In contrast, his mum worked from home and wasn’t part of any trade union, so didn’t receive the same fair treatment as his father.

 

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A young Sadiq Khan © Business Insider

Becoming a human rights lawyer

Khan studied law at the University of North London and became a human rights lawyer in 1994. That same year he and his wife Saadiya Ahmed, also a solicitor, got married. They went on to have two have daughters, Anisah and Ammarah, aged 15 and 13 respectively.  

 

Khan became partner to a law firm counting fifty employees at the young age of 27. He handled cases such as winning compensation for a hairdresser wrongly assaulted by the police and a black police officer wrongly accused of fraud.

 

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Sadiq Khan with his wife Saadiya © Yui Mok – WPA Pool /Getty Images

A dazzling political ascent

Khan had been councillor to the south London district of Tooting for over a decade when, in 2005, he quit law to become Member of Parliament of Tooting for the Labour Party.  

 

He gained notoriety in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks that hit London on the 7th of July that same year. In his speech to Parliament he said:

Today Londoners and the rest of the UK have even more reason to be proud of Londoners – proud of the way heroic Londoners of all faiths, races and backgrounds, victims, survivors and passers-by, acted; proud of the way ordinary courageous Londoners carried on with their business and stopped the criminals disrupting our life.

 

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Sadiq Khan with his wife Saadiya, family and aides © Mary Turner/Getty Images

 

He gained increasingly important positions in government. First as whip (responsible for ensuring party members vote respecting the official party line), then Transport Minister in 2009. That year Khan became the first Muslim in the Cabinet.  

 

He was also Ed Miliband’s campaign manager, helping him win the Labour Party leadership against favoured candidate (and brother) David Miliband in 2010.  

 

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Sadiq Khan takes the bus to his first day of work as Mayor of London, 9 May © Jack Taylor/Getty Images

“London is the greatest city in the world. But we are at a crossroads”

The real cherry on top of his political career is, of course, having being elected Mayor of London with over 55 percent of votes. Khan run on a social justice platform aimed at restoring opportunities for millions of Londoners who are being priced out of the increasingly expensive city.

 

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Sadiq Khan attends a Yom HaShoah event in London on 8 May © Jack Taylor/Getty Images

 

He has promised to: build affordable housing, tacke low pay and the gender pay gap, cap the price of public transport until 2020, work with businesses to ensure access to skills and campaign for Britain to stay in the EU. In addition, he wants to be “the greenest Mayor ever” by cleaning London’s air and establishing it as a low-carbon leader with a long-term plan for clean energy.

 

 

As his first public act he attended a Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day, event on the 8th of May – an act that won’t go unnoticed for a Muslim mayor. Whilst some fear he is too inexperienced, at a time when London (and the world) are at a crossroads, as his campaign slogan states, gambling on a fresh face who wants to break barriers is a risk worth taking.

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