Sadiq Khan speaks at the Labour conference in Brighton last year. Photograph: Getty Images.
Show Hide image

Sadiq Khan declares war on race inequality

The shadow London minister will set out a comprehensive programme to tackle racial division in a speech tonight. 

In his recent speeches and interventions, Ed Miliband has made it clear that reducing inequality will be the defining mission of any government he leads. Today, Sadiq Khan, one of Miliband's closest shadow cabinet allies, will argue that this goal will only be achieved with a comprehensive plan to tackle race inequality. The speech he will make this evening at Operation Black Vote is the most significant and radical delivered by any Labour figure on the subject in recent history. 

The key point, a party source told me, is his recognition of "the importance of positive action". Khan will pledge to impose a new legal requirement for all police forces, including the Met, to have active recruitment policies to increase diversity and will confirm that Labour will consider introducing diversity quotas for company boards and the judiciary if voluntary action fails. He will also promise to radically reform stop and search powers, going much further than Theresa May, to improve the diversity of the civil service and to reform the Work Programme so that it better supports ethnic minorities. All of these policies will be united in Labour's race equality strategy, which a source said would be "driven by the Cabinet Office, rather than a piecemeal department-by-department approach". 

Khan will say: "My bus driver father could only have dreamed, as a new arrival to London in the 1960s from Pakistan, that three decades later his son would be the first Asian MP to attend cabinet. As a country we have clearly done much to break down the barriers of racial discrimination. But the fact is that Britain remains a hugely unequal country for minority ethnic people. If you are black or Asian in Britain today you are significantly more likely to be unemployed, will earn less and live a shorter life than your white neighbours. This is a moral issue and political issue – an injustice that offends our basic values of fairness. But it is also terrible for both our society and economy."

And he will argue that general inequality can only be tackled by reducing racial inequality, highlighting that: 

- Black and ethnic minority people are the most likely group to be trapped in poverty.

- The percentage of people from Bangladeshi or Pakistani descent who earn the minimum wage is nearly twice as high as the percentage of white Britons.

- In London, more than twice as many Asians earn less than the London Living Wage compared to white Londoners. 

"It will be impossible to make Britain a more equal country and close the gap between those at the top and the bottom of our society, without also tackling racial inequality," he will say. 

In an echo of The Spirit Level, he will also argue that tackling race inequality is not just good for ethnic minorities but for everyone in Britain. 

Ending race inequality isn’t just about helping black or Asian people; it’s about improving the lives of everyone in Britain. The shocking unemployment rate in ethnic minority communities limits economic growth and increases the cost of welfare. We need to unleash the economic potential of young Black and Asian Britons to grow our economy. Ending race inequality will also benefit our communities and society. Inequality causes shorter, unhealthier and unhappier lives. It increases the rate of teenage pregnancy, violence, obesity, imprisonment and addiction. It destroys relationships between individuals born in the same society but into different classes or of different races. Tackling racial inequality will help us tackle these problems amongst people from all backgrounds.

Race equality, he will say, has "barely been an afterthought for the coalition". 

"They have taken their foot off the accelerator and as a result, the progress made by the last Labour Government has gone into reverse. Unemployment in black and Asian communities has gone through the roof – ethnic minority Britons are now twice as likely to be unemployed as white Britons. There has been no progress in making our police force reflect the communities they protect. And government cuts have disproportionately hit black and ethnic minority Britons."

Khan's approach isn't just smart policy but smart politics too. As research by Operation Black Vote has shown, the number of seats where the ethnic minority vote is bigger than the majority of the sitting MP will total 168 in 2015, up 70 per cent since 2010. Khan said in response: "This research shows how important the ethnic minority electorate is going to be in future general elections. Any party that seriously wants to win needs to take the ethnic minorities with them." By seizing the initiative on race equality, Khan is ensuring that Labour is best placed to do so. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Getty.
Show Hide image

Hannan Fodder: This week, Daniel Hannan gets his excuses in early

I didn't do it. 

Since Daniel Hannan, a formerly obscure MEP, has emerged as the anointed intellectual of the Brexit elite, The Staggers is charting his ascendancy...

When I started this column, there were some nay-sayers talking Britain down by doubting that I was seriously going to write about Daniel Hannan every week. Surely no one could be that obsessed with the activities of one obscure MEP? And surely no politician could say enough ludicrous things to be worthy of such an obsession?

They were wrong, on both counts. Daniel and I are as one on this: Leave and Remain, working hand in glove to deliver on our shared national mission. There’s a lesson there for my fellow Remoaners, I’m sure.

Anyway. It’s week three, and just as I was worrying what I might write this week, Dan has ridden to the rescue by writing not one but two columns making the same argument – using, indeed, many of the exact same phrases (“not a club, but a protection racket”). Like all the most effective political campaigns, Dan has a message of the week.

First up, on Monday, there was this headline, in the conservative American journal, the Washington Examiner:

“Why Brexit should work out for everyone”

And yesterday, there was his column on Conservative Home:

“We will get a good deal – because rational self-interest will overcome the Eurocrats’ fury”

The message of the two columns is straightforward: cooler heads will prevail. Britain wants an amicable separation. The EU needs Britain’s military strength and budget contributions, and both sides want to keep the single market intact.

The Con Home piece makes the further argument that it’s only the Eurocrats who want to be hardline about this. National governments – who have to answer to actual electorates – will be more willing to negotiate.

And so, for all the bluster now, Theresa May and Donald Tusk will be skipping through a meadow, arm in arm, before the year is out.

Before we go any further, I have a confession: I found myself nodding along with some of this. Yes, of course it’s in nobody’s interests to create unnecessary enmity between Britain and the continent. Of course no one will want to crash the economy. Of course.

I’ve been told by friends on the centre-right that Hannan has a compelling, faintly hypnotic quality when he speaks and, in retrospect, this brief moment of finding myself half-agreeing with him scares the living shit out of me. So from this point on, I’d like everyone to keep an eye on me in case I start going weird, and to give me a sharp whack round the back of the head if you ever catch me starting a tweet with the word, “Friends-”.

Anyway. Shortly after reading things, reality began to dawn for me in a way it apparently hasn’t for Daniel Hannan, and I began cataloguing the ways in which his argument is stupid.

Problem number one: Remarkably for a man who’s been in the European Parliament for nearly two decades, he’s misunderstood the EU. He notes that “deeper integration can be more like a religious dogma than a political creed”, but entirely misses the reason for this. For many Europeans, especially those from countries which didn’t have as much fun in the Second World War as Britain did, the EU, for all its myriad flaws, is something to which they feel an emotional attachment: not their country, but not something entirely separate from it either.

Consequently, it’s neither a club, nor a “protection racket”: it’s more akin to a family. A rational and sensible Brexit will be difficult for the exact same reasons that so few divorcing couples rationally agree not to bother wasting money on lawyers: because the very act of leaving feels like a betrayal.

Or, to put it more concisely, courtesy of Buzzfeed’s Marie Le Conte:

Problem number two: even if everyone was to negotiate purely in terms of rational interest, our interests are not the same. The over-riding goal of German policy for decades has been to hold the EU together, even if that creates other problems. (Exhibit A: Greece.) So there’s at least a chance that the German leadership will genuinely see deterring more departures as more important than mutual prosperity or a good relationship with Britain.

And France, whose presidential candidates are lining up to give Britain a kicking, is mysteriously not mentioned anywhere in either of Daniel’s columns, presumably because doing so would undermine his argument.

So – the list of priorities Hannan describes may look rational from a British perspective. Unfortunately, though, the people on the other side of the negotiating table won’t have a British perspective.

Problem number three is this line from the Con Home piece:

“Might it truly be more interested in deterring states from leaving than in promoting the welfare of its peoples? If so, there surely can be no further doubt that we were right to opt out.”

If there any rhetorical technique more skin-crawlingly horrible, than, “Your response to my behaviour justifies my behaviour”?

I could go on, about how there’s no reason to think that Daniel’s relatively gentle vision of Brexit is shared by Nigel Farage, UKIP, or a significant number of those who voted Leave. Or about the polls which show that, far from the EU’s response to the referendum pushing more European nations towards the door, support for the union has actually spiked since the referendum – that Britain has become not a beacon of hope but a cautionary tale.

But I’m running out of words, and there’ll be other chances to explore such things. So instead I’m going to end on this:

Hannan’s argument – that only an irrational Europe would not deliver a good Brexit – is remarkably, parodically self-serving. It allows him to believe that, if Brexit goes horribly wrong, well, it must all be the fault of those inflexible Eurocrats, mustn’t it? It can’t possibly be because Brexit was a bad idea in the first place, or because liberal Leavers used nasty, populist ones to achieve their goals.

Read today, there are elements of Hannan’s columns that are compelling, even persuasive. From the perspective of 2020, I fear, they might simply read like one long explanation of why nothing that has happened since will have been his fault.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @JonnElledge.