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”.