LONDON (JTA) – With half of the votes counted in London’s local election, Sadiq Khan of the Labour Party maintained a strong lead over the Conservative candidate Zac Goldsmith.
The son of a British Jewish father, Goldsmith, who does not identify himself as a member of the Jewish community, was seen as having conducting a lethargic campaign but was nonetheless expected to give Khan, a Muslim descended from a Pakistani family, stiff competition because the election Thursday was held in the shadow of a spiraling scandal within Labour involving accusations of anti-Semitism.
But Khan was nonetheless seen as poised to become London’s first Muslim mayor on Friday afternoon, after half of the millions of votes cast were counted, London’s Evening Standard reported. The daily did not specify by how much Khan was leading Goldsmith.
Labour’s scandal began early this year amid claims that Jews were targeted at it chapter at Oxford University. Since then, at least 19 Labour officials have been suspended from the party for making statements deemed offensive to Jews or vitriolic about Israel.
Ken Livingstone, a former London mayor for Labour who until recently represented the party in parliament, was suspended for saying that Hitler was a Zionist before he “went mad” and killed six million Jews. He made the remark – which he has refused to retract – in defence of another Labour politician, an MP, who was suspended for making a related argument.
The latest suspension, The Jewish Chronicle reported, was of David Watson, a fundraiser, over Facebook posts in which he said Zionism was racist and that Israel was comparable to the Islamic State terrorist group.
During his campaign, Khan condemned Livingstone’s remarks, and said he had changed his minds about his 2009 call for sanctions against Israel.
Khan “could not have done more than he has to address the concerns of the Jewish community on anti-Semitism and engage with it – from attending a mock seder where he donned a kippah to meeting charities and kosher shoppers in north London,” Justin Cohen, news editor for London’s Jewish News, told JTA Friday.
The Jewish community will be looking to see whether Khan is “making good on his expressed interest to take a trade delegation to Israel,” as outgoing mayor Boris Johnson has done, Cohen said.