Brexit campaign 'had racism at its heart' says Labour leadership candidate

12 January 2020, 13:26

Mr Lewis said Brexit "had racism at its heart"
Mr Lewis said Brexit "had racism at its heart". Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

The Brexit campaign "had racism at its core and its heart," according to Labour leadership outsider Clive Lewis.

The shadow treasury minister accused politicians like Nigel Farage of using the Brexit campaign to "divide our communities."

Mr Lewis is currently standing to be the next Labour leader, however he has struggled to secure enough support to make it onto the ballot paper.

As it stands, he has just four nominations from MPs and MEPs - 18 short of the total needed by 2:30pm on Monday.

When pressed by Sky News' Sophy Ridge, he criticised the arguments used in the Brexit campaign.

"I think part of the Brexit campaign, and part of the undertone of Brexit, from some politicians, Nigel Farage and others, had racism at its core and its heart," he said.

"They used it as a mechanism to divide our communities, to divide our country."

The Labour leadership hopeful said politicians used Brexit to "divide" communities
The Labour leadership hopeful said politicians used Brexit to "divide" communities. Picture: PA

He added: "How many people of colour woke up on the day after the referendum with a sense of dread because of what had happened?

"Ultimately our country had chosen to listen to Boris Johnson, someone who has a track record of racist commentary, of giving credence to racism."

The MP for Norwich South has taken a number of controversial stands since announcing his candidacy, such as describing himself as a republican and calling for a referendum on the future of the monarchy.

He also suggested the Duchess of Sussex had been the victim of "structural racism" in the British media.

"We can see it with Meghan Markle and the way that she's been treated in the media. We know this is a reality of the 21st century still after 400 years of racism."

Ms Thornberry is "fairly confident" she will make it onto the ballot paper
Ms Thornberry is "fairly confident" she will make it onto the ballot paper. Picture: PA

Meanwhile, shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry - who only has 10 nominations - has said she is "fairly confident" she will get the numbers needed by the Monday deadline.

"From the conversations I have had this weekend I am fairly confident that, as long as I don't get any slippage I will be fine," she said.

"I am going to get across the line and then we will move on to the next stage.

"It is a long contest and it will have its ups and downs. I have been a slow starter, but I did start from a standing start after the general election."

Four other contenders - Sir Keir Starmer, Rebecca Long-Bailey, Lisa Nandy and Jess Phillips - have already secured the support they need to go forward.

Ms Long-Bailey, the favourite of the left, rubbished suggestions that she was simply the "continuity Corbyn" candidate in the contest.

"It annoys me when people say that and unfortunately as a woman, it annoys me even more. I'm a person in my own right," she said.

"I would describe myself as a socialist. I got involved in politics because of my principles and it's my principles that drove me to stand to become leader of the Labour Party."

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