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Labour leadership hopeful Clive Lewis says 'element of racism' helped cause Brexit

Labour leadership hopeful Clive Lewis says 'element of racism' helped cause Brexit
4 min read

"An element of racism" lay behind Britain's push to leave the European Union, Clive Lewis has said.

The Labour frontbencher - who is among those vying to succeed Jeremy Corbyn as party leader - said that while he did not believe "every single person that voted for Brexit is a racist", there were "very unsavoury" drivers behind the vote to quit the bloc.

"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, at its heart," he told Sky News' Sophy Ridge.

Mr Lewis added: "I think for anyone to say there was not an element of racism in the Brexit project as an endeavour were basically wrong… 

"Now that doesn’t mean that every single person that voted for Brexit is a racist. Some of my family voted for Brexit. 

"But I think there were drivers within that campaign that certainly were very unsavoury and what I would call racist."

Mr Lewis - who on Sunday launched his manifesto for the leadership contest - has so far struggled to scoop up the 22 nominations needed to make it through to the next round of the contest.

The Labour MP, who is half-Grenadian, also urged his parliamentary colleagues to tackle "structural sexism" and "structural racism" in the party as he was pressed on the reason for his lack of support.

He said: "Do I think if you go to the PLP [Parliamentary Labour Party] and speak to the members they are overtly sexist? No, I don’t, plus I don’t believe they are overtly racist but these issues, these things run through our society."

Mr Lewis added: "I have never said that it is because of my colour that I am not being nominated by my parliamentary colleagues but what I was saying is if you want to understand why we haven’t had a woman, why we haven’t had a person of colour as leader of the Labour party then we have to look at the entirety of the issue which is that those structural issues do exist."

The latest total of MP nominations show that the shadow minister has the backing of four colleagues, with his nearest rival Emily Thornberry scooping ten.

Frontrunner Sir Keir Starmer has 68 Labour MPs on board, followed by Rebecca Long-Bailey on 26, Lisa Nandy on 24 and Jess Phillips on 22.

Mr Lewis said: "Clearly I wish my mum could nominate me as well, that would be fantastic wouldn’t it?  But it’s not quite in the rules.  

"Look, it’s hard and I think some of the things that I’m saying aren’t necessarily things which everyone after a devastating defeat want to hear but the reality is that unless we transform ourselves as a party, transform how we organise, transform the culture of our party, stop the tribalism within our party, we won’t be able to win in the next five years."

The Labour leadership contender, who has described himself as a republican, also floated plans for a referendum on the monarchy, arguing that it would help give "people a real say over the kind of country they want to live in".

"I think we’ve seen this week there is a great love for the Royal Family in this country but there are also I think some concerns about how it will go forward into the future," he said.


Mr Lewis's manifesto - dubbed 'Transform to Win' - urges the party to scrap the House of Lords, introduce proportional representation, and hand "maximum devolution" to Scotland and Wales in a bid to help the party reconnect with voters.

It meanwhile floats open selections for all candidates in the party, a new "independent complaints function" to help it tackle racism and sexism complaints, and a major shake-up of the party's ruling National Executive Committee to make its running more transparent.

Launching the document, Mr Lewis said: "So far, this leadership election has been dominated by questions of factionalism and sectarianism. 

"I’d rather it be dominated by sharp policy ideas that map out a clear and credible route back to government. I call on my fellow leadership candidates to share with us the ideas they would implement if they were elected as leader."

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