London’s diplomatic corps has chosen Sadiq Khan as the “best ambassador for London on the world stage”, the first time envoys have picked a Labour candidate since the Embassy mayoral poll began in 2008.
“People are ready for change,” commented one Latin American Ambassador, while a EU head of mission said Mr Khan’s “rags to riches” story of the son of an immigrant bus driver was “befitting” of a capital where people of all cultures had come to seek their fortunes.
In the Embassy poll, 38% of respondents chose the Labour candidate, while 28% opted for Conservative nominee Zac Goldsmith. The Lib Dem’s Caroline Pidgeon and the Green Party Sian Berry got 5% each, while nearly a quarter of diplomats (24%) were undecided. UKIP failed to register any votes, and while diplomats were intrigued by minority parties such as the pro-immigrant ‘Polish Prince’ they did not win any support.
When asked which candidates were better suited to secure London’s position as an international financial centre, Goldsmith edged ahead of Khan, although envoys felt their economic policies were “quite similar”.
On the question of managing intercommunal relations, a topic of interest to consuls, diplomats felt that Khan was the clear choice, possibly due to his immigrant background.
Voting patterns differed markedly from previous polls, likely due to the influence of the EU referendum. In the past, Labour candidates have traditionally won support from the developing nations, while the EU and OECD nations have tended to opt for a Tory mayor.
However in this election Goldsmith’s support for leaving the EU clearly split the European vote and also accounted for a large proportion of “undecided” European voters.
As one EU Ambassador – who plans to vote in the election today – told Embassy: “I’d prefer a conservative mayor but Goldsmith’s stance on the EU gives me second thoughts.”
Envoys were critical of the personal attacks that have characterised the election campaign: “This kind of communal and identity politics is becoming mainstream and that makes me pessimistic,” said one embassy worker.