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7 December 2017

This clip shows Sadiq Khan at his best

During a visit to Pakistan, the London mayor was asked what it felt like “coming home”.

By Stephen Bush

The most effective way to watch a great striker is with the speed slowed down. The movements at the speed of thought, to see, and seize the opportunity to score or create a goal for someone else in seemingly impossible circumstances, or as David Winner put it of Dennis Bergkamp: “One moment the pitch is crowded and narrow. Suddenly it is huge and wide … A miracle.”

Top-level political performers have to be able to do something similar. It’s not the only important aspect of being a good politician and arguably the tendency to value it above other concerns has led to many of our present problems, but it is still a vital one.

Sadiq Khan is probably the most effective performer on the political stage and he gave a good example of what he does well on the BBC last night when, during a mayoral visit to Pakistan, he was asked what it felt like “coming home”.

“Nah, home’s south London, mate, but it’s good to be in Pakistan,” the Mayor of London responded, before adding, “Also good to be from India, home of my parents and grandparents.”

Again, as with Bergkamp, you only really appreciate it when you watch it slowed down. Khan has a slight south London accent but he subtly amps it up, while managing to keep it just straight enough that it doesn’t come across as overly contrived. Then he smiles, charmingly, just enough that the coded invitation to his questioner that they kindly fuck off is just that, coded. All of that, plus a short distillation of what means to have different identities in just under a minute.

And he does all this while he must, at the same time, be suppressing the desire to swear and say that he’s from Tooting, not Pakistan.  

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