A recruitment advert from Leave.EU turned up in my twitter feed this morning which shows an extract of an interview with Sadiq Khan quoted out of context, and a transcript of part of that, giving an impression which is not just wrong, but fascinatingly and revealingly wrong. It reads:
WATCH: “Gun crime is up, robbery is up, knife crime is up, rape is up… and you think honestly that London is more safe now than when you took over as Mayor of London?”
@SadiqKhan: “I do.”
The stone cold loser is dangerously delusional…
Support us at (and links to the “get involved” page of their web site)
The London Assembly web site does indeed provide information on an increase in crime, but the levels are low. There’s not much chance of an individual being directly affected (unless they are already involved in drugs or other criminal). As a frequent visitor to London, my instincts echo Sadiq Khan’s comment — it feels safe.
There are some big “buts”… not least, the fact that I am white and have a British accent, so I’m not likely to be the target of xenophobic attack.
There’s plenty of evidence, both in general and in detail to suggest that the vote to leave the EU has caused an increase in xenophobic attacks. At this distance it is hard to tell whether xenophobic feelings were actually stoked by the Leave campaign, or whether people started to feel it was socially-acceptable to be xenophobic. Supporters of Leave.EU who claim we are less safe should look in the mirror…
Particularly worrying about this is the question of how far the reported increase in crime maps onto xenophobia. That’s partly about things that overtly xenophobic, but it also picks up more subtle links, such as crime motivated by alienation stoked by xenophobic attitudes.
A Muslim mayor for London
There have been some daft comments on the fact that the present mayor of London is a Muslim. Sadiq Khan was born in the UK to Pakistani-born parents. It would be outrageous if someone like that couldn’t become mayor of London. Katie Hopkins has tweeted about “Londonistan” — and Donald Trump’s re-tweeting of her hasn’t reflected well on either of them.
All major cities are becoming more ethnically diverse. It’s quite wrong to suggest that this is a result of EU membership — and therefore misleading for Brexit supporters to try to channel anxiety over this into opposition to EU membership. The reality is that increased ethnic diversity has done a huge amount to enrich our major cities and our economy.
Referring to Sadiq Khan, that Leave.EU tweet says “The stone cold loser is dangerously delusional” — quoting Donald Trump. His public attacks on Sadiq Khan and his references to “no go areas” in London might appeal to his core supporters in the US, but are far from reality. The danger is that these comments contribute to the sense of marginalisation in people who are already disaffected. For the most part, they’ve been met with justified derision, though a taste of what is in store for Brexit Britain is that Jeremy Hunt has actually defended Trump for re-tweeting Katie Hopkins’ attack on Khan, as though “take back control” now means “agree with Trump”.
Leave.EU’s re-using of Trump’s language gives a pointed reminder of links between (some) support for Brexit and support for Trump, playing on people’s anxiety to get them to do what Leave.EU want. Whether this is in people’s interest is a very open question. Attacking a British-born Muslim mayor is an attack on what it is to be British today. It’s trying to turn anxiety into support for Brexit, and in the process turns the campaign for Brexit into an attempt to undo decades of increased diversity in the UK. It seeks to turn the UK into what it’s never been.
I’m left with a sense of Leave.EU stoking people’s anxiety to get them to support Brexit, exporting the blame for this onto Sadiq Khan, and demonising him in a way that can be presented as a reason to support Brexit. In this case Sadiq Khan is the target, but this is far from confined to him. It stops a real discussion of Brexit and manipulates people in a shameful way. While claiming to “stand up for democracy”, Leave.EU seem to be doing the opposite.