Sadiq Khan, a former civil rights lawyer and MP for Tooting, has been elected as the third Mayor of London.
Born in 1970 to Pakistani immigrant parents, Khan studied law before embarking on a successful career as a human rights solicitor. After graduating at the top of his class in his qualifying exams, he went on to represent clients in the Court of Appeal, the European Court of Human Rights and the House of Lords. The author of two books on human rights and policing, he served on the board of Liberty from 1997-2004.
Khan has a long track record in politics; in 1994, he was elected to Wandsworth Council and served as the Deputy Leader of the Labour Group for five years while it was in opposition. In 2005, he was elected to represent Tooting in the House of Commons and was re-elected (albeit with reduced majorities) in 2010 and 2015. He was the first Muslim MP to attend Cabinet, serving as Transport Minister, Shadow Justice Secretary and Shadow Minister for London.
Priorities and policies
It was Khan who first described London’s Mayoral election as a “referendum on housing”, which gives some indication of how he will run City Hall. Perhaps the strongest theme of his manifesto was “genuinely affordable homes”, and many of his policies seemed geared towards this. On top of plans to prioritise brownfield regeneration and support Housing Associations to double their output in the capital (from 90,000 to 180,000 units annually), he has also pledged to ban ‘poor doors’ and call in schemes that he believes will offer too few affordable homes. Khan has promised to take on land-banking developers with ‘use it or lose it’ powers for City Hall and use his influence as Mayor to attract investment into long-term rental schemes.
However, there are a few more controversial strings to the new Mayor’s bow. Khan has pledged to introduce a new class of homes, with rents capped at one-third of the average local income. Branded ‘rent control’ by some critics, it is sure to create some tensions between big and small landlords and Khan’s City Hall. He has also outlined his plans for a city-wide rental agency – which would operate on a not-for-profit basis – promoting long-term tenancies and offering tenants an alternative to private agents and high fees.
Khan has also tackled estate regeneration – a favourite policy of the Government, which appointed Lord Heseltine to head a panel on the subject, and allocated £100 million to regenerate Britain’s worst ‘sink estates’. Khan has argued that regeneration schemes should only take place with existing residents’ support, placing himself firmly on the side of tenants and homeowners who are concerned about the possible impacts regeneration could have on them. He has also stated that it should only take place when developers can prove that there will be no net loss of social housing, that leaseholders will get a "fair deal", and that existing tenants will have full right of return.
With a larger mandate than any previous Mayor of London, it is clear that Khan tapped into something among more than a million Londoners. What remains to be seen, however, is how his policies will stand up now that he finds himself in the top-floor office at City Hall. Will his pledges on estates regeneration, affordable housing and rent caps have the impact he hopes that they will, on a city facing a housing crisis that shows no sign of abating?