Humza Yousaf’s SNP win exposes Labour’s unbroken line of white male leaders

Humza Yousaf with his wife Nadia El-Nakla, daughter Amal and step-daughter after his victory was announced - Andrew Milligan/PA
Humza Yousaf with his wife Nadia El-Nakla, daughter Amal and step-daughter after his victory was announced - Andrew Milligan/PA

Humza Yousaf’s election as the leader of the SNP means that, for the first time, British-Asian politicians are set to hold the roles of Prime Minister, Scottish First Minister and Mayor of London.

Equality campaigners celebrated Mr Yousaf’s “momentous” election following the successes of Rishi Sunak in Westminster and Sadiq Khan in London.

It leaves the post of Labour leader as the most senior political role in Britain never to have been held by anyone other than a white male.

In 2021, the Sewell Review into racial disparity in the UK was criticised by the Left after it concluded that Britain was “not deliberately rigged against ethnic minorities”.

Human rights experts at the United Nations also rejected the findings of Dr Tony Sewell, who is black, saying his report tried to “normalise white supremacy”.

Kemi Badenoch, the equalities minister, insisted at the time: “We certainly won’t achieve greater equality if we fall for the narrative that this country and its institutions are fundamentally racist.”

However, while the Left was quick to jump on the racism accusations, the Conservative Party has produced the first Hindu prime minister as well as the first black chancellor, two successive female home secretaries of Asian descent and three female prime ministers. The SNP has had a female leader and now has a Muslim leader.

While Labour has produced the first London Mayor from an ethnic minority and Anas Sarwar, the Scottish Labour leader, is the son of Pakistani Muslims, it has not, managed to elect a female or a non-white leader in its 117-year history – a record that stretches from Keir Hardie to Sir Keir Starmer and comprises 19 elected leaders.

The Tell Mama group, which tackles anti-Muslim hatred, congratulated Mr Yousaf, saying it was “fantastic to see politicians in leading roles representing our multicultural and diverse society in the UK and Scotland”.

Mr Yousaf, 37, was born in Glasgow to first generation immigrants from Pakistan and Kenya and was privately educated before studying politics at Glasgow University. He is set to be both the first Muslim, and the first non-white person, to hold the post of First Minister of Scotland.

Mr Sunak, born in Southampton, is also the son of first generation immigrants. His Hindu parents came to Britain from southern Africa and were of Indian Punjabi descent. Like Mr Yousaf, he was privately educated. He studied philosophy, politics and economics at Oxford University.

Mr Khan, who has been Mayor of London since 2016, was born in south London to first generation immigrants who came to Britain from Pakistan.

Mr Yousaf said his paternal grandparents and his father came to Scotland from the Punjab in the 1960s and “as immigrants to this country, who knew barely a word of English, they could not have imagined in their wildest dreams that their grandson would one day be on the cusp of being the next first minister of Scotland”.

He said: “From the Punjab to our Parliament, this is a journey over generations that reminds us that we should be celebrating and always celebrate the migrants who contribute so much to our country.”

Zara Mohammed, the secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said: “The election of Humza Yousaf is not only momentous for Scotland but also for the United Kingdom – the first leader of a British nation from a Muslim background.”