Sadiq, stop playing identity politics with Covid-19

There are many reasons why ethnic-minority people are dying from coronavirus. ‘Injustice’ is not one of them.

Rakib Ehsan

Topics Politics UK

The contemporary British left itches to peddle its racial identity politics under any circumstance – and this includes the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan.

In his latest Guardian piece, he discusses the apparent disproportionate impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the UK’s ethnic minorities. He frames the Covid-19 pandemic as an ‘injustice’, but this is a puzzling term to use when one considers the realities of the matter.

There are many reasons why this virus would seem to be having a disproportionate impact on certain groups. Geography and housing conditions certainly play a part. Diverse London is the leading NHS region in terms of Covid-19-related deaths, followed by the Midlands, which includes cities such as Birmingham and Leicester.

There are glaring ethnic differences in terms of geographical distribution. For instance, 99 per cent of people of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin live in urban localities; for Black Africans and Black Caribbeans the figure is 98 per cent. The corresponding figure for white British people is notably lower, at 78 per cent.

With young-to-elderly transmissions of Covid-19 being much discussed, the structure of family units and overcrowded housing are also important factors to consider. Around 70 per cent of white households with someone over the age of 70 do not have any younger people living with them, compared with just 20 per cent of South Asian households and 50 per cent of Black African or Caribbean households. In England, two per cent of white British people live in overcrowded housing. This figure rises to seven per cent, 15 per cent and 30 per cent for people of Indian, Black African and Bangladeshi origin respectively.

The exceptionally high rate of overcrowded housing within the Bangladeshi community is particularly striking. Male workers of Bangladeshi origin are disproportionately concentrated in lower-paid roles within the hospitality and transportation sectors. Internal religio-cultural norms contribute to a higher-than-usual level of female economic inactivity and among the highest fertility rates of any group. Nearly one in two people of Bangladeshi origin live in London, where there is a city-wide housing crisis. These factors collectively feed into a disproportionately high proportion of one-income / low-income households with a relatively high number of children. In one of the most expensive cities in the world, this is the perfect storm for overcrowding.

Underlying health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease have been identified as particularly problematic in respect to coronavirus. And the likelihood of developing type-2 diabetes is reported to be as much as six times higher in people of South Asian origin than those of European heritage, with a number of factors – mostly linked with lifestyle – believed to be behind this increased risk. While people of South Asian origin comprise just four per cent of the UK population, they represent eight per cent of all diagnosed cases of diabetes. In addition to this, the risk of coronary heart disease is up to 50 per cent higher among first-generation South Asian migrants, when compared with the white European population in the UK. Genetics, lifestyle and cultural factors all play their part.

There are also well-documented ethnic differences in terms of the composition of NHS workers, who are of course particularly at risk of infection. Asian and black people comprise seven per cent and three per cent of England’s working-age population respectively. The corresponding figures for their respective proportions among NHS medical staff is 30 per cent and five per cent. To put this in perspective, the percentage of the working-age population that is white is 86 per cent, which drops to 56 per cent for NHS medical staff.

The coronavirus outbreak has drawn attention to very real differences between the UK’s ethnic groups, based on geography, housing, structure of family unit, occupation, health, culture and lifestyle. This has contributed to a situation in which it seems ethnic minorities are overrepresented in the cases and death figures. But reducing this complex array of factors to the phrase ‘injustice’, as Sadiq Khan did, does the debate no favours.

There is certainly a discussion to be had over whether or not the UK was prepared for this crisis, and the degree to which public authorities have effectively tailored health and coronavirus-related advice for various ethnic groups. But some of the factors underpinning Covid-19 figures are beyond the control of the state, while others require the holding of hard-headed discussions within local communities.

Britain is trying to get to grips with what is arguably our gravest social crisis in the postwar era. What we do not need right now is the mayor of our capital city playing racial identity politics in the middle of it all.

Dr Rakib Ehsan is a research fellow at the Henry Jackson Society. Follow him on Twitter: @rakibehsan.

Picture by: Getty.

Let’s cancel cancel culture

Free speech is under attack from all sides – from illiberal laws, from a stifling climate of conformity, and from a powerful, prevailing fear of being outed as a heretic online, in the workplace, or even among friends, for uttering a dissenting thought. This is why we at spiked are stepping up our fight for speech, expanding our output and remaking the case for this most foundational liberty. But to do that we need your help. spiked – unlike so many things these days – is free. We rely on our loyal readers to fund our journalism. So if you want to support us, please do consider becoming a regular donor. Even £5 per month can be a huge help. You can find out more and sign up here. Thank you! And keep speaking freely.

Donate now

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.


John Lewis

23rd April 2020 at 10:22 am

The statistic that (mostly) Asians and black comprise nearly 30% of NHS medical staff needs to he seem in context.

1. “Medical” staff as defined represent less than 9% of NHS employees (a pretty damning figure in itself). The BAME representation in non-mech so NHS staff, all 1.1m of them, is pretty much exactly in line with their representation in the general population.

2. The obvious conclusion is that the BAME over-representation in medical staff represents those with overseas medical qualifications. How and why this happens and how it relates to the ultimate destinations of doctors trained in UK universities and hospitals would be most interesting.

Scheherazade Smith

23rd April 2020 at 2:37 am

The article alludes to a factor this is far more germane than any race-baiting nonsense Sadiq Khan could customarily spew. The fact that BAME families are more likely to look after their elderly and infirm, rather than briskly export them to ‘care’ homes as we native Brits are shamefully prone to doing, has contributed to their less fortunate statistics. A more honourable way to live and die, if one must die at all, I think.

Scheherazade Smith

23rd April 2020 at 2:38 am

* that is far more germane

Justin Smith

23rd April 2020 at 1:59 am

I think, as there’s a war on, he should be evacuated to Sturgeonland and made to wear a gas mask!

Paul Carlin

23rd April 2020 at 1:20 am

Is the writer on first-name terms with the gargoyle presently in the Mayor’s seat?

Julia Kandi67

22nd April 2020 at 11:46 pm

Do you use a paypal, in the event if you have you can generate an additional 300 a week to your account only working from home for 5 hours per day.. check out this link Read More

Vivian Darkbloom

22nd April 2020 at 11:09 pm

In my dreams I’d like to imagine a London mayor would be one of the superfluous luxuries we can no longer afford after the bill comes in for the lockdown disaster. For centuries London trundled along without an overall satrap until 2000 when another political sponger was added to the income layer. Khan is the latest in a line of useless figures sucking hard-earned cash from working people. Enough!

Get rid. Problem solved.


22nd April 2020 at 8:22 pm

Khan and his Muslim friends need to convert to Christianity before it’s too late. We’ve seen the damage Islam has caused all over the globe.

Daniel Goldstein

24th April 2020 at 12:36 pm

Are you feeling ok today?

Mark Lambert

22nd April 2020 at 7:21 pm

Khan was an idiot to use that word, while at the same time asking, “why?”

I have noticed that at least two “bame” people have at least considered some factors on TV.
One stood out.

“In some communities there are people who cannot speak English and will not be able to
explain their symptoms”

Go back how many months? If anyone said, “there is a problem with a lack of spoken and understood English in some communities”, they would have been called racist and denial would have taken place.

When it fits an agenda and all that.

Justin Smith

22nd April 2020 at 6:32 pm

I can’t help but think Sadiq, is just being allowed to share the same allotted space with Andy Burnham. They have both come out with vacuous newspeak recently, and it makes one think who is directing them, because of their message!

Highland Fleet Lute

22nd April 2020 at 3:41 pm

It’s all in the face with that guy.

To put the runt of the litter in charge of the pack, does not bode well for the pack.

Dominic Straiton

22nd April 2020 at 1:19 pm

You would have thought an actual Pakistani in charge of London would already know about vitamin D. What an odious little stone cold loser.

Fraser Bailey

22nd April 2020 at 12:43 pm

Thank you for this rational article on the subject. But Khan exists to play identity politics. It is the fundamental fact of his existence, his reason for existing. So he will never stop.

I note the following:

‘Asian and black people comprise seven per cent and three per cent of England’s working-age population respectively. The corresponding figures for their respective proportions among NHS medical staff is 30 per cent and five per cent.’

However, I have seen these percentages disputed elsewhere.

Justin Smith

22nd April 2020 at 10:56 am

Hi All,

Could everyone please read the Interim Investigation into the Covid-19 pandemic, published on 16th April, by the author and researcher, Andrew Johnson. His report and website is below:

This report is compelling in many ways and contains vital information for anyone dealing with the Covid-19 events/fallout.

I hope you find this helpful. Justin

Linda Payne

22nd April 2020 at 10:56 am

Asians are more likely to live in multi generational housholds or certainly the extended family lives closer. They have more children on average than white people or am I wrong on this?

Bella Donna

22nd April 2020 at 7:28 pm

No you’re correct. Also there appears to be some genetics involved as well as BCG vaccination ie TB jabs.

James Knight

22nd April 2020 at 10:35 am

Turns out the virus can damage the liver and make Asian people look like African Americans.

Maybe that is why Boris Johnson is in hiding. Now it all makes sense.

Lord Anubis

22nd April 2020 at 10:12 am

Of course, in all that article, the most obvious factor is missed (Ignored) altogether.

White people are White for a reason.

The pale skins of northern Europeans will only have evolved since the end of the last ice age, and must have evolved really very quickly since northern Europeans were already known for fair skins as much as 5000 years ago. The selective pressure that drove this evolutionary change must have been severe and extreme.

Chronic vitamin D deficiency is a killer, it isn’t just about poor bone development. It is also implicated in high blood pressure, heart disease, compromised immune system and diabetes, All co-morbidities that are more prevalent in the non-white UK population and are implicated in higher Covid mortality, and yet the vitamin D connection is never made.

Why the reluctance I wonder??

Mor Vir

22nd April 2020 at 11:10 am

Yes that is interesting, but the late spread of fair skin raises questions about the role it played in a warming climate. It seems intuitive that it is an environmental adaptation but the matter is complex. What is certain is that it spread through the mixture of lighter skinned people with a darker skinned population. Sexual selection of lighter females may have played a role in how whites ended up white.

Jonathan Palmer

22nd April 2020 at 10:03 am

The coronavirus outbreak has drawn attention to very real differences between the UK’s ethnic groups, based on geography, housing, structure of family unit, occupation, health, culture and lifestyle. ………………I’m afraid someone (me on this occasion) is going to have to take a brave pill and cite genetics which some malevolents will doubtless say means race and therefore racialism.
The authorities have already identified that some genetic enzyme deficiencies such as G6PD result in the virus having a disproportionate effect on those carrying the gene. G6PD is present in about 4% of the world population but I understand a far higher proportion of those of Middle East and Asian origin.
The revolting Sadiq needs a robust rebuttal. There is no evidence whatsoever that the BAME “community” is suffering from the virus as a result of institutional racism.

Jim Denham

22nd April 2020 at 9:41 am

We all know that Spiked hates Khan (and can speculate about why), but his drawing attention to the disproportionate impact of the virus upon ethnic minorities ( a verifiable fact) and discussing what then socio-economic causes might be, hardly qualifies as “racial identity politics”. You people are (and I’m being charitable here) obsessives.

Christopher Tyson

22nd April 2020 at 7:58 pm

That’s a bit strong, spiked are humanists and I suspect that they are Christian sympathisers on the quiet, ‘love your enemy’. You can disagree with someone or take issue with their point of view without hating them. Indeed I seem to remember reading an article in spiked that said that Sadiq was part of their defence team when their previous incarnation was sued out of existence.

Adamsson 66

22nd April 2020 at 9:13 am

Of course it is a Chinese made virus and the Chinese are famously racist.

James Knight

22nd April 2020 at 8:50 am

Men are hit harder than women. But nobody talks of the “injustice” against men.

Khan would do better to focus on why so many London Bus drivers have died than play identity politics. He was prepared to follow the precautionary approach with Uber when there were safety concerns, but he only belatedly came to the conclusion that masks would be a good idea for drivers and passengers packed on buses and trains.

Mor Vir

22nd April 2020 at 8:32 am

Rakib goes off on his usual attack on British Muslims and their culture as an ‘explanation’ of their vulnerability to corona. But it is well known that British Muslims have lower rates of corona than other ethnic minorities. Rakib just cannot miss an opportunity to attack Muslims, and if there is none, he will just invent one. Rakib has some serious mental problems.

> Areas with large ethnic minority populations make up more than three quarters of England’s coronavirus hotspots, a report has revealed.
But numbers coming from Muslim communities in areas which could be expected to be hard-hit are low, and cultural habits may be protecting England’s Muslims from the fast-spreading disease.
That’s according to a report by Professor Richard Webber, from Newcastle University, and writer and former Labour Party politician, Trevor Phillips.
The report points out that while areas with high proportions of non-white people make up most of the UK’s coronavirus hotspots, Asian Muslim areas, largely, do not.
Blackburn, Bradford, Luton, Rochdale and Rotherham, Mr Philips said, are ‘conspicuous by their absence’ on the list of worst-hit places by the coronavirus as both non-white and poor areas. – DM

Gordon el Gopher

22nd April 2020 at 8:49 am

And that’s with their increased risk of catching it from hanging round with young white girls in taxis! They really are a sturdy bunch.

Mor Vir

22nd April 2020 at 10:31 am

Yeah, stereotypes, very witty or very dull. Those sort of remarks are designed to inflame tensions and may you personally get what you are looking for.

Gordon el Gopher

23rd April 2020 at 1:14 am

My comment was designed to bring a smile. Stop giving people excuses for violence.

MRB Ehsan

22nd April 2020 at 9:59 am

“But it is well known that British Muslims have lower rates of corona than other ethnic minorities”

Mor Vir – I think before you accuse others of having serious mental problems, perhaps you should do some research and understand that the British Muslim population comprises a wide array of ethnicities? Just a thought.

Now, keeping the focus on ethnicity (critically-ill COVID-19 patients): – very clear differences.

Prof Kamlesh Khunti (University of Leicester and the Centre for BME Health), when discussing these differences, has mentioned factors such as heightened risk to diabetes and heart diabetes, as well as cultural behaviours/beliefs.

Mor Vir

22nd April 2020 at 10:35 am

Maybe you you should think before you open your fat mouth or perhaps your brain does not work too well any more due to the response you get for mouthing off. We all know that British Muslims are from different places. DId you want an award for that? Sticking with the subject of the article, overall their cultural practices have given them a lower corona rate. Cope with it.

Andrew Mawdsley

22nd April 2020 at 10:04 am

Rakib Ehsan is a British Muslim you plank. Also, the article is trying to dispel any of the idenitarian tendencies of Sadiq Khan, which at a time of national emergency are particularly unhelpful.

Mor Vir

22nd April 2020 at 10:29 am

He has some ancestry from Muslims, not all, and he has never professed any religion on here, so unless you know something that we do not, there is no reason to think that he is a Muslim.

‘Plank’ is that what you get when you mouth off at ppl?

Andrew Mawdsley

22nd April 2020 at 10:42 am

MV. Why would he have need to discuss his religious leanings in an article that is about Sadiq Khan’s shifting of a narrative (presumably to cover his own ineptitude). Also, who’s “we” ? Are you talking for the rest of the contributors on this subject? Apologies for the use of the word plank, it was unnecessary.

Mor Vir

22nd April 2020 at 11:01 am

I never said that he had any reason to talk about his beliefs or non-beliefs. If you have no point to make then just stop.

MRB Ehsan

22nd April 2020 at 12:16 pm

MV – for someone who accuses others of having serious mental problems, you come across as a bit erratic and unstable? Truly scatterbrain stuff.

Relax – I will correct you in any way I please.

A) The British Muslim population is by no means an ideologically monolithic bloc. There is a diversity of opinion on a range of social and political issues. Suggesting otherwise is classic ID politics.

B) I don’t ask for any award – I merely made the point that comparing rates within a religious group, with rates within an ethnic minority group, is suspect (due to possible overlap). Nothing more, nothing less.

C) I did read the report you refer to. I found it quite interesting, but it doesn’t quite provide you with the level of data for you to make such grand claims. There is a dearth of granular ethnic-specific coronavirus-related data (hopefully this will improve with time).

Now, to avoid wasting time, this will be my last reply. Keep well.

Mor Vir

22nd April 2020 at 12:40 pm

Rakim, you just cannot help yourself from mouthing off at ppl. You are going to have to learn the hard way that will not work out for you.

You have made it clear that you do not profess the shahada and keep to Muslim moral teaching. You may as well just say that you are an apostate and be done with it, no doubt that is what the Muslim community has concluded anyway. No you will not get a reward for this, you have turned against your own ppl while pretending to be one of them.

MRB Ehsan

22nd April 2020 at 4:15 pm

Let me be very clear MV – if you have to resort to these kind of points, it really shows that you have run out of anything useful to contribute to the debate.

You can talk about me “learning the hard way” all you want – I think you will find that you commented first on an article I authored, in an exceptionally rude and accusatory manner.

You initially “mouthed off” – I decided to respond to your absurd claims (which perhaps you did not expect, which explains why you are so rattled).

I am happy to engage with anyone who wants a robust but ultimately civil discussion over points I articulate in my articles. But if one decides to adopt the kind of approach you did, expect a sharp response.

It’s Rakib btw, not Rakim.

Mor Vir

23rd April 2020 at 8:28 am

Rakib, you went off on a rant against British Muslims and their culture, all based on a false premise that they have higher rates of corona, which is false. You do indeed have mental problems, you are faking being a Muslim, you are an apostate and an anti-Muslim, and on top of it you have a big mouth. No doubt you will get your ‘reward’ that you speak of from your ex-community. You should be honest about your real personal motives for attacking Muslims.

MRB Ehsan

22nd April 2020 at 10:41 am

Mor Vir – since when were you an expert in my own personal heritage?

Think you will find that I have clearly stated my own faith in a number of articles – some authored for Spiked.

Now kindly drop the identitarian nonsense – it is backfiring spectacularly.

Happy to have a mature debate – but the approach you have adopted is rather immature.

Mor Vir

22nd April 2020 at 11:57 am

Don’t you mouth off at me son. I never said that I was an ‘expert’ on you. And you are the one trying to make a living out of ID politics not me. You must be really popular with Muslims. Presumably you are a persona non grata.

The question of your faith is very simple, have you professed the shahada and do you still believe and profess it? Do you accept traditional Muslim teaching over new western teaching about morality like s/x? If you do then you are a Muslim, otherwise you are not. Your ancestry has got nothing to do with it.

Gordon el Gopher

22nd April 2020 at 8:30 am

What’s with all the facts and figures? That’s ridiculous it must’ve taken ages to put all that together. Just blame racism, it takes a fraction of the time and gets more clicks.

Iain Litenment

22nd April 2020 at 8:27 am

Khan has been cynical throughout. He reduced tube trains by 90%, which meant that despite the greatly reduced number of people travelling the underground remained overcrowded. He claims to be more expert than the government scientists when it comes to the general public wearing face masks. Now he wants to divide and rule using death as a wedge. It is all about Sadiq.

Mark Houghton

22nd April 2020 at 9:14 am

“It is all about Sadiq.” – it always was. He’s a politician – that’s what they do.

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to comment. Log in or Register now.