Fairy-tale ending for London's new mayor

London's new mayor Sadiq Khan attends the signing ceremony in Southwark Cathedral, London, Britain, on May 7, 2016.
London's new mayor Sadiq Khan attends the signing ceremony in Southwark Cathedral, London, Britain, on May 7, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • London's new mayor Sadiq Khan's journey to City Hall is like a modern fairy tale.

Born in London in 1970 to parents who had recently arrived from Pakistan, he was the fifth child out of seven brothers and one sister.

He grew up in public housing in Tooting, an ethnically mixed residential area in south London, and slept in a bunk bed until he was 24. His modest background plays well in a city that is proud of its diversity and loves a self-made success story.

Mr Khan, 45, regularly recalls how his father drove one of London's famous red buses, and his mother was a seamstress. One of his brothers is a mechanic.

He is a handy boxer, having learnt the sport to defend himself in the streets against those who hurled racist abuse at him, and two of his brothers are boxing coaches. He ran the London Marathon in 2014.

At school, he wanted to study science and become a dentist. But a teacher spotted his gift for verbal sparring and directed him towards law. He gained a law degree from the University of North London and started out as a trainee lawyer in 1994. He specialised in human rights.

Mr Khan, who joined the Labour Party at 15, became a local councillor for Tooting in 1994, and its Member of Parliament in 2005.

He still lives in the area with his lawyer wife Saadiya and their two teenage daughters.

Then prime minister Gordon Brown made him the communities minister in 2008 and he later served as transport minister, becoming the first Muslim minister to attend Cabinet meetings. In Parliament, he voted for gay marriage - which got him death threats.

His mayoral election campaign focused on providing affordable homes for Londoners and freezing transport fares.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 08, 2016, with the headline 'Fairy-tale ending for London's new mayor'. Print Edition | Subscribe