A communist muslim is about to be the new mayor of London.

Labour candidate favourite for London
Sadiq Khan of opposition Labour Party is the strong
favourite to win London's mayoral election on Thursday after a contest
marked by religious tensions and accusations of racism.Polls
show Khan, the son of a bus driver, is as much as 20 percentage points
ahead of rival Conservative Zac Goldsmith in the race to run one of the
world's top financial centres. If he wins, he will succeed current
Conservative mayor Boris Johnson to become the first Muslim to head a
major Western capital.London's
population of 8.6 million is among the most diverse in the world and it
is rare for identity politics to enter British campaigning.But
Goldsmith, with the support of Prime Minister David Cameron, has for
weeks focused on Khan's faith and past appearances alongside radical
Muslim speakers, accusing him of giving "platform, oxygen and cover" to
extremists.Former
human rights lawyer Khan says he has fought extremism all his life and
regrets sharing a stage with speakers who held "abhorrent" views.He
has accused Goldsmith, the elite-educated son of a billionaire
financier, of using Donald Trump-style tactics to divide Londoners along
faith lines, as well as being part of an out-of-touch wealthy elite."There's
a chance that there are people who are almost subconsciously put off
(voting for Khan) by the dog-whistle racism ... people who wouldn't like
to say 'I'm not going to vote for Sadiq Khan', but will have a wobble
at the ballot box," said Anthony Wells, director of political and social
opinion polling at YouGov.The impact was unlikely to be enough to allow Goldsmith to pull off a surprise victory, he said.

"The
only effect of the Zac Goldsmith campaigning is probably just to
entrench all those long-standing issues the Conservative Party have got
with appealing to ethnic minority voters," he said.Last
week the campaigning took a new twist as Kahn's party was accused of
failing to stamp out anti-Semitism in its ranks amid a row over comments
by another lawmaker on her Facebook account saying that Israel should
be moved to the United States.Khan
condemned the comment and distanced himself from former London mayor
Ken Livingstone, who on Thursday was suspended from the Labour party for
supporting the party member at the centre of the controversy.He
said on Sunday the anti-Semitism row, fuelled by comments made by
Livingstone linking Hitler with Zionism, could hit his chances in the
election."I
accept that the comments that Ken Livingstone has made makes it more
difficult for Londoners of Jewish faith to feel that the Labour Party is
a place for them, and so I will carry on doing what I have always been
doing, which is to speak for everyone," he told The Observer newspaper.The
left wing of the party -- and notably its current leader Jeremy Corbyn
-- have long been sympathetic to the Palestinian cause and it is not the
first time Labour has faced accusations that this had led to actual
anti-Semitism.Corbyn is likely to face new questions over his future if the party does poorly in the election.

SOFT POWER

The
two mayoral hopefuls also have opposing stances on whether Britain
should remain a member of the European Union. Goldsmith wants to leave,
Khan wants to stay.But
even with a June 23 referendum on that issue looming, and the question
over London's role as a global financial centre that a vote to leave
would pose, the Brexit issue has barely featured in the campaign.Both
candidates have been eager not to alienate voters who disagree with
them on Brexit, saying they will fight for the capital's interests
whichever way the country votes.Otherwise,
their policies for the city are largely similar - more affordable
housing, more transport investment and better local policing.It
is the political influence that comes with the post, the second-largest
direct electoral mandate of any politician in Europe, that is perhaps
most at stake."The
soft power of the role is very important," said Tony Travers a
professor at the London School of Economics. "The mandate of a city as
big as London gives the mayor a voice and authority which goes well
beyond that formal mandate."(Additional reporting by Paul Sandle, Editing by Giles Elgood and Mark John)

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