The London Mayoralty looks set to be won by a friend of the notorious Al Qaeda terrorist Babar Ahmad. The Labour politician Sadiq Khan is now polling at 44 percent of the vote to the Conservatives' 37 percent, despite his connections to Mr. Ahmad.
As previously reported, Mr. Ahmad of Tooting, South London, fought an eight-year campaign against extradition to the US to face charges of "conspiracy and providing material to support to terrorism."
During the period he was kept in a maximum-security British prison, until he was eventually sent to America.
In December 2013 he pleaded guilty to the charges, which related to the establishment of jihadi fundraising websites. He was sentenced to twelve and a half years in solitary confinement.
He was released by US authorities in July last year and returned to London.
Throughout his incarceration he received the support of Sadiq Khan. He was visited several times in prison by Khan, who has offered several various seemingly contradictory explanations of their relationship to different outlets.
Khan also described himself as a “supporter” of Shaker Aamer, who was detained in Guantanamo Bay until October last year. American officials accused Mr Aamer of playing a "lead role" in the Battle for Tora Bora whilst his family received money from Osama Bin Laden.
He was released by the Obama administration as part of a controversial plan to shut Gitmo altogether. He strongly denies the allegations against him and has never been convicted of any crimes.
Mr. Khan’s opponent, Zac Goldsmith, is considered to be on the left of the Conservative Party, having previously worked for the Ecologist Magazine. He has tried to emanate the by-partisan appeal of the current Mayor of London, Boris Johnson. So far this has not impacted on his poll numbers in any meaningful way.
However, he has employed Sir Lynton Crosby, who was widely credited with winning the 2015 general election for David Cameron. Crosby has also won a number of high profile elections in his native Australia, but in London the electorate seem much less susceptible to the Conservative message.
Election analyst Lewis Baston said “For Goldsmith to win, one of two things has to happen – either he manages what Johnson did and gets a vote that a ‘generic Tory’ could not win, or Labour’s national popularity collapses.”
Khan is known as a street fighter and has resorted to negative attacks in most of his public elections. Yesterday he told the Evening Standard, Mr. Goldsmith was a “serial underachiever” who “isn’t up to the job” of running the capital.
Ed Fulton, political spokesman for spread betting company Sporting Index, said: “With just over 100 days to go until London picks its next Mayor, it isn’t surprising to see the war of words between the Khan and Goldsmith camps starting in earnest." The company says Khan is mostly likely to win but Fulton admits "it is certainly still all to play for.”
A recent poll showed 55 percent of Londoners are “comfortable” with electing a Muslim to such a high profile position with just 31 percent being “uncomfortable”.The Mayor of London has a significant role in policing the capital, including counter terrorism. Despite this Mr. Khan’s connection to Ahmad is has not been a widespread concern during the election.