That Khan episode is worthy of a little bit of deconstruction.

As everyone knows, The Mayor of London – certainly Labour’s most important politician elected to public office, and one of the most senior non-white and Muslim politicians in that part of the North which comprises Western Europe and America – put out a Tweet this morning. He said he was going to say some things to Scottish Labour’s conference in Perth today. Most controversially, and stupidly, this included:

“There’s no difference between those who try to divide us on the basis of whether we’re English or Scottish and those who try to divide us on the basis of our background, race or religion”. 

This statement is so wilfully ignorant and so blatantly seeks to deploy Khan’s status as non-white and Muslim in order to equate wanting Scotland free of English Toryism to racism, that there’s already plenty of justified condemnation across the media. There’s little point saying more of the obvious here.

Instead, it’s worth, just for a moment, looking at the other parts of Khan’s tweet.

The first thing to note, chronologically at least, is that Khan’s purpose is to attack the notion of independence – not simply the SNP. So in the first paragraph, he’s telling Scots that supporting independence is essentially a matter of right-wing, narrow nationalism. See again, by the way, how The Independent also conflates Scottish independence with the SNP).

In the second and third paragraphs, notice that Khan uses the word ‘country’ only once in the part of the text he tweeted. He wants us to know that there’s only one country, the UK, and in that country London and Scotland are on the same side. But of course, all London Mayors have argued for the interests of already overwhelmingly-powerful London over the other parts of the UK, including Scotland. Ken Livingstone then Boris Johnson both regularly demanded more for London and less for Scotland. And  here’s Sadiq Khan putting out a press release ‘demanding more autonomy for the capital’ so that his electors, in the richest part of the UK, can use such power to screw more out of the UK public purse at the expense of, er, Scotland, Wales and the regions. Where could the money come from otherwise? Not so much on the same side after all, then, mate.

The fourth paragraph says that if you live in Scotland and you’re unhappy that English Tory MPs are set to spend the next decade or two taking Scotland’s social democratic underpinning apart and want to stop that via independence, then you’re no difference from a racist. Enough said.

The fifth paragraph tells Scots that the antidote to Brexit is not to push our neighbours away. This is a line which confuses England with the UK, as so many English politicians do these days. For Scots, the antidote to Brexit is not to leave the EU. And of course it’s the English who have voted for all of us to push our European neighbours away, not Scots. ‘The Right Direction’, by the way, is just terrible writing when it’s a line from a Labour politician talking about his direction of travel.

The rest is just hackneyed rubbish. These pre-released speeches always have printed upon them; “check against delivery” so that the speaker isn’t, theoretically at least, constrained by lines put out in advance. That doesn’t work when the politician himself puts the lines out, obviously. Still, we know Khan inserted; ‘hey, guys, I’m not saying people who support independence are racists’, or some such. But, really, so what? He’d already put his own lines out, so he can hardly deny them credibly now.

If Khan’s operation is as bad as it seems from this episode, then this balls-up will be the least of it – there’ll be plenty bigger ones to come. Far more likely, though, the whole thing was produced in Scotland because Khan’s an able politician and his folk aren’t dummies.

In general, UK Labour-minded folk are sympathetic to Scots moving from No to Yes. They don’t conflate support for independence post-Brexit with support for the SNP. They don’t blame people in Scotland for wanting to take control of their own destiny faced with long-term UK government made up entirely of English Tory MPs with right wing, English Tory imperatives.

No, in order to find Labour folk whose hatred of today’s SNP dominates their thinking on every subject, trumping Scottish dignity and social democratic values, you really do need to come to Scotland.

Khan’s speech was made in Scotland all right. But the good news for independence-minded folk is that by saying regular Scots looking rationally at what’s before them are no better than racists, in a single day he’s likely managed to shift Scotland a couple of points towards independence.

When Scots vote Yes next year, we must all remember to thank Sadiq Khan’s Scottish Labour speechwriter.



“The World is becoming an increasingly turbulent and divided place. We’ve seen Brexit, President Trump elected in the United States and the rise of right-wing populist and narrow nationalist parties around the world. 

It’s up to us – whether in Scotland or London – to fight this trend. 

The last thing we need now is to pit different parts of our country or sections of our society against each other – or to further fuel division or seek separation. 

There’s no difference between those who try to divide us on the basis of whether we’re English or Scottish and those who try to divide us on the basis of our background, race or religion. 

The antidote to Brexit and the rise of right-wing populist parties is not to run away, break away or push our neighbours away. It’s to lead us in a different direction – the right direction. 

Now is the time to build unity, create a more United Kingdom and ensure everyone has the opportunities they need to succeed”. 

18 Responses to Maybe Sadiq Khan in London; in Scotland, not so much
  1. Thank you for your analysis of what Mr Khan might or might not have intended in his speech and article. I suspect that a number of the factors you suggest have contributed to it.

    The unionist alliance, which includes Labour, especially Labour in Scotland, has since the 2014 referendum continued the anti independence propaganda. I think this is aimed primarily at the 55% who voted NO and, it is aimed at encouraging them to stay with that position.

    The reasoning is that the complex of ‘Project Fear’ arguments was successful with them on the last occasion and so repeating them, like the catechism, helps them to ‘keep the faith’ (as the unionists in Northern Ireland often say about protestantism/unionism). Jeremy Corbyn spouted the lie about ‘you’ll have to join the Euro’. The conference tagline was STRONGER TOGETHER – not much change from BT.

    Labour in Scotland has dropped to 15% with 1/4 of former supporters having switched to the Tories. Those in that 15% appear to me to be a group which might be amenable to arguments about an independent Scotland, especially with the likelihood of Conservative wins in 2020 and 2025 and, possibly beyond.

    I suspect that many of those 15% are, like me, in their seventh decade or beyond, and so the chances of seeing another Labour Government in the UK is unlikely in our lifetimes. So let’s bequeath to our younger fellow Scots a country of their own to shape as they see fit.

  2. It was an error – but the unionist campaign has indulged in more subtle forms of racism before. It’s thrust is better expressed as ‘mindless barbarians pose a threat to your family and future’, and that’s a theme with a long, long history (notably in 1744) – updated by the Tories to having your pocket picked by Mr Salmond.

    I actually find the ‘antidote to Brexit’ part more astonishing, not just because it is vacuous, but because it can be said by a politician whose own constituency voted heavily against leaving speaking in a country which also voted heavily to remain.

    It was the ideal opportunity for an ambitious and relatively independent Labour politician to strike a blow against the Brexiteers, support the Scottish leader (who voted against triggering Art 50), and put a bit of fire back into the remainers on both sides of the border.

    Instead…..well, the best I can say is missed opportunity. If Sadiq came out on the doorstep with me and heard what Laboour voters are saying about Brexit, he might have got a bit more insight….

  3. […] supporters racist  – And I’m not going there because there have been so many good blogs and articles pointing out what a huge pile of steaming shite that […]

  4. I’d like to see the mainstream media cover this in some depth, however that’s a forlorn expectation.

  5. Two points I feel need highlighted – Khan said that we in Scotland should work together with the rest of the UK to fight for a better way ahead, this seems a bit rich from a Labour Party representative when they have refused umpteen times to consider working with the SNP

    The second is the focus on London’s differences from the rest of England. Any English politicians pushing this line should be ashamed of themselves. London is the capital of England and should be leading the way to ensure all English regions can thrive, not cutting the capital off from the rest of the country. Imagine if Edinburgh MSPs tried this line in Scotland!

    • Thanks, Brenda (I just noticed your name so I’ve edited my original from Brobb. Although I quite like Brobb, too!

      They’re both pretty profound points. The context of Khan’s comments is that he likely sees himself as having a serious poke at being prime minister in 2025 – and he may be right – via those new Corbynites unhappy with failure (as they discover the Corbyn project is not about winning elections – it’s about being a leading uncompromising Socialist party in the world and they’re being successful at that). The main thing about his visit to Scotland is that he wants Scottish votes in any future leadership race. If Scotland voted agaisnt indy again and Sadiq were leading the Labour Party, he’d be up for a deal with the SNP all right.

      Good point about London always out for itself, too. It’s actually quite funny to think of Edinburgh doing the same. Thanks for this.

  6. That was brilliant. Thank you.

    I was rooting for Mr Khan in the London elections.

    Perhaps I over-estimated his abilities, or maybe his intellect. Possibly just his sense of decency.

    I’m disappointed he would use the race card. In his case it comes over as cheap.

    I’ve noticed that some Labour members have tweeted that they are unhappy. Some even talking about Labour having lost their votes.

    #sadiqKhan on Twitter is interesting.

    • Thanks, Tris. Sadiq is a competent politician. When opposition politicians visit Scotland they rely on their Scottish colleagues to write their stuff. I imagine Sadiq and his staff will be a bit hacked off; no the other hand, they saw the references to racism so they should have jumped all over that.

  7. When you say “UK Labour-minded folk are sympathetic to Scots moving from No to Yes”, you couldn’t be more right. I sadly recently attended the funeral of a relative in Brighton who had been a Labour activist all of her adult life (and most certainly was not happy with the Corbyn situation).

    Several of her friends who attended were also Labour activists in the south of England. During chat at the wake, the subject came up, so I explained that I’d moved from being a Labour voter to an SNP member and indy supporter. The response ranged from “I don’t blame you” to mild approval.

    Scottish Labour keep going on about solidarity across the UK. Well, from what I’ve seen, UK Labour have given up on them.

  8. Quite frankly, politically speaking this is probably the most monumentally stupid and ill judged intervention I can recall. As you correctly surmise at the end of your piece it is likely to cost Labour dear in terms of electoral support and taken together with Kez’s inchoate Uber Unionist ramblings today: only serve to increase support for independence.

  9. It seems that Scots,uniquely in this world of ours,are singled out as divisive racists when we ask for our government to be of our people for our people.
    Democracy is only OK when validated by the London establishment.


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