Two candidates from ethnic minorities are vying for the post of London mayor

London Mayor Sadiq Khan, 50, April 9, 2021 in London, United Kingdom afp_tickers

This content was published on May 04, 2021 – 06:07

(AFP)

One is of Pakistani origin and the other is Jamaican, but the main candidates for London mayor in Thursday’s election remain the exception to the UK election scene in a full reflection on racism.

According to opinion polls, Labor’s candidate to succeed him, Sadiq Khan, 50, should outpace his conservative rival Sean Bailey, who grew up like Khan in a modest family in this capital of nine million people.

The local elections, which have been postponed for a year due to the pandemic, will allow 48 million voters in England to renew some 5,000 seats in 143 municipalities and Scots to elect a new regional parliament, a vote crucial in the aspiration to independence.

This confrontation is attributed to the cosmopolitan character of London, where only 45% of the population declared themselves “white British” According to the 2011 census, this confrontation remains exceptional in an election in which the majority of the important candidates are white.

This comes after the “Black Lives Matter” movement reignited the debate about racism and colonialism in a country where politics is still the preserve of the elite that was formed in the universities of Cambridge and Oxford.

“In 2016, the city elected me the mayor of its town, which indicates how far its progress is,” Sadiq Khan, the son of a Pakistani bus driver, who became the first Muslim mayor of a major Western capital, told AFP. Boris Johnson.

Sean Bailey dreams of becoming “the first black mayor in London,” a position with a great patriotic vision, and “the first black politician of this stature in Europe.”

– disagreements –

In 2016, Khan defeated wealthy conservative Zach Goldsmith, the pure product of an elite whose anti-Islam campaign was unconvincing.

“It is not surprising that conservatives have now decided to elect a candidate from an ethnic minority” to present themselves as “a liberal and inclusive party,” says Stephen Fielding, a professor of political science at the University of Nottingham.

However, Bailey is not without controversy and has been criticized for comments he made a few years ago in which he questioned certain aspects of multiculturalism and considered them reactionary to women.

But regardless of the candidates’ origins and party divisions, their “personality” also plays a role, says political scientist Simon Osherwood of the University of Surrey.

Billy agrees: “I have a unique experience thanks to my assets, but that’s not the only thing I can contribute to.”

A former social worker brought up by his mother, who was a special advisor to ex-prime minister David Cameron, wants to give London a “fresh start” with more jobs, housing and more security against the stabbing attacks Khan was accused of committing. Braked.

– ‘Shallow’ advance –

For experts, the situation in London shows the progress made in recent years in terms of diversity in policy, although there is still much room for improvement.

Many Conservative ministers belong to ethnic minorities, including key portfolios such as the Interior and Finance.

But “how true is it?” Fielding asks. The Labor and Conservatives are still fiercely white and struggle to deal with racism, Islamophobia or anti-Semitism in their ranks, which is mainly expressed on social media.

For Debeesh Anand, a sociologist at the University of Westminster, this is a “superficial” advance because the political rhetoric is still directed mainly towards the white UK, with a very right-wing and nationalist stance of the government.

For example, despite conscience checks on racism, the executive branch upheld a controversial report refuting the country’s institutional racism.

According to these experts, the change will come in terms of education, civil society mobilization, or reform of the way in which candidates are appointed.

But Khan is “optimistic” about the future, because “there is a new generation of very talented politicians from different backgrounds who will accelerate progress”.

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