The Tory candidate would probably have made a perfectly decent and thoughtful mayor, but his campaign failed to strike the right notes and turned off a lot Londoners uncomfortable with attacks on Khan’s character, background and religion.
If the mayor enjoyed a honeymoon period, it was starkly interrupted by the 23 June referendum, which saw the UK (if not London) vote to leave the EU. Since that event, Khan has done his best to tell the world that London is open – and open for business.
In an effort to ensure this, he’s already called for more powers to be devolved to the capital in areas such as skills funding, business policy and greater financial autonomy. But what of the powers he already has? Well, this newspaper was first out of the block to congratulate the new mayor for lifting his predecessor’s ban on development at City Airport. This was a positive, timely and necessary post-referendum move for which the mayor deserves credit.
Khan has also moved quickly to reassure the business community, with the appointment of a deputy mayor for business, Rajesh Agrawal, who is busily seeking to build new bilateral relations with other European cities. The details are vague at this stage, but the sentiment is encouraging.
However, in areas on which the new mayor directly campaigned – such as housing and transport – progress has been more disappointing. The high-profile pledge to build 50,000 new homes a year has already been watered down to a “long-term target” and the flagship “fares freeze” policy has unravelled after revelations that it won’t include travelcard prices, which are set by the Department for Transport.
At least the Night Tube, dogged by union opposition, will roll into service this weekend. More broadly, Khan can be accused of having over-promised in his campaign but he’s clearly not short on energy. If he can combine this with real radicalism on the policy front, then there’s every chance that he’ll make the most of his time in office.