Just a few months ago, before the EU referendum triggered earthquakes across the UK political landscape, the Conservative party and its press allies were seeking, unsuccessfully, to portray Sadiq Khan, a Muslim, and at that time Labour’s candidate to become London mayor, as having questionable “links” with Islamist fanatics in one of the most poisonous election campaigns the country had ever seen.
On Saturday, Mayor Khan addressed an audience of thousands at London’s 11th annual Eid al-Fitr celebration in Trafalgar Square for the first time since taking office. He called for peace, unity and an embrace of religious freedom and diversity, describing this as one of London’s great strengths. He pledged zero tolerance of hate crimes, reports of which have risen in the wake of the EU leave vote, and he denounced “criminals who do bad things and use the name of Islam to justify what they do”.
The whole event received positive and rather lavish coverage from the Daily Mail – a far cry from April when Mail columnist and BBC Sunday Politics regular Isabel Oakeshott was recycling “troubling” stories of exceptional flimsiness to question Khan’s suitability for City Hall and her venerable colleague Max Hastings was declaring, absurdly, that Khan “represents a brand of socialism that is out of fashion even in Cuba”.
In reality, of course, Khan in office is turning to be nothing like what the Mail’s pundits predicted and has been putting campaign pledges to be “a Mayor for all Londoners” and a Muslim mayor who’d “take the fight to the extremists” into early effect. Only three weeks ago, he addressed the Pride in London festival from the same stage.