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By Ben Guerin
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Labour's Clacton Candidate Says He's Running "For Every Black And Brown Person" In UK

Labour candidate Jovan Owusu-Nepaul and Reform UK's Nigel Farage (Credit: Martin Suker)

5 min read

Labour candidate Jovan Owusu-Nepaul has said he is running against Nigel Farage in Clacton “for every Black and brown person in the country” and believes the Reform UK leader’s decision to stand has “changed the nature of the campaign”.

Owusu-Nepaul, 27, is a Labour staffer working in the party’s external relations team who was chosen to fight the Essex seat before the general election was called – and before anyone knew he would be going up against Farage.

In an exclusive interview with PoliticsHome, the Labour candidate was asked how he felt when Farage announced his candidacy during the campaign after insisting that he would not stand for Parliament.

“My grandparents who came to this country in the 40s and 50s, who had to deal with ‘no dogs, no Blacks, no Irish’, and so many other people like myself who came here with that level of racism – it felt like all of that history had culminated to this fight,” Owusu-Nepaul said.

“It became about the future of this country and who and who isn't welcome here.”

He added: “I feel like I'm doing this for every Black and brown person in the country, and doing this for a lot of working-class people in the country."

It has been argued that the incumbent Conservative candidate Giles Watling would have the best chance of winning against Reform UK in Clacton, and that Labour should take a back seat.

“If I'm honest, of course I've thought that, because in my hearts of hearts I would rather the Tory get back in than have Farage,” the Labour candidate replied candidly.

Owusu-Nepaul also defended his bid, saying there should be “a genuine alternative put in place for the people of Clacton” pushing for “progressive ideas”.

A new poll by Survation, commissioned by former Ukip donor Arron Banks, has estimated that Farage will win 42 per cent of the vote, with the Conservatives on 27 per cent and Labour on 24.

Labour’s candidate admitted that there is a “block Farage vote” in the constituency, though he said there are also “anti-Farage” voters “making their mind up as to who best to choose, either the Tories or me”.

Nigel Farage
Reform UK leader Nigel Farage speaking at Princes Theatre in Clacton (PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo)

On the prospect of a Farage win, he said: “It's really important that I do everything I can to prevent that from happening, and it just, if anything, furthers my resolve to keep going. This whole campaign, there have been people who have tried to silence me, to try and undermine me, to try and twist my words and delegitimise what I stand for.

"The sentiment that [Farage] espouses is so dangerous… There was, all of a sudden, a lot of weight on my shoulders to perform to the best I could, to ensure that we could put in a good show to oppose him.”

Owusu-Nepaul was heavily criticised online during the campaign after an old tweet of his emerged in which he reacted to a friend talking about “white man tears” with the reply: “My favourite drink”.

“They were comments made before I put myself forward for election. Prior to that I was a private citizen. Of course, I would never use such language as an elective representative,” the candidate told PoliticsHome.

Yet he added that people he met face-to-face in the constituency were not offended by it. “This area is full of white men. When it's been raised with me, they literally just scoff at it. It’s not a deal. People recognise tongue in cheek.”

The Labour candidate said he had received online abuse after the tweet was shared widely. “I've had people use words… I don't know whether they believe it or not, but they're saying it and they feel empowered to say it – to call me the N word, to say the P word.”

Owusu-Nepaul added: “My skin has got so much thicker in all of this.”

Asked about his experience on the doorstep, he said: “Of course you get racism on the doorsteps as well. I've had people rip the leaflets up in front of me. I literally today had someone at the school gate saying, ‘Get out, we don't want you here’ to me… You know that is for your race, obviously, where people are like, ‘Nah, we don't want any of that around here’.”

However, he continued: “The racists are not a majority. They're a very loud minority.”

Jovan Owusu-Nepaul
Jovan Owusu-Nepaul (Credit: Martin Suker)

The Labour hopeful recently went viral online for another reason – his style. Seen on the campaign trail in trench coats, vintage knitwear and striped shirts, he has stood out as a particularly well-dressed candidate.

“I was told that I would have to wear a suit, and I don't have a suit. What I'm wearing is the closest thing to a suit. It was just a hodgepodge of things I have,” he explained, adding that he buys his clothes at charity shops for cost and environmental reasons.

“The nervousness I had around not having a proper suit was quite overwhelming, because I thought all of these other guys have suits, and I don't have one, and I don't have the money to get one either… I literally don't own a white shirt, I’ll have to get one for polling night!”

One photograph in particular, where Owusu-Nepaul has his arms outstretched standing in front of Farage, has attracted positive comment online. The Labour candidate said he approached Farage when he saw him in Clacton.

“With Farage, it was a pleasant interaction, it was. There was no reason for it to be horrible. I did test him and his views. There's no doubt about that. But that doesn't justify me being horrible because it only leans into what he wants me to be... I just keep on smiling and wear my own clothes and make the case for a better world,” Owusu-Nepaul said.

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