Brexit campaign had ‘racism at its heart’, says Labour leadership hopeful Lewis

By Gavin Cordon and George Ryan, PA Political Staff

Labour leadership outsider Clive Lewis has said the campaign to take Britain out of the EU had “racism at its heart”.

The shadow treasury minister, who is struggling to secure the support of MPs needed to make it onto the ballot paper, said politicians like Nigel Farage had used Brexit to “divide our communities”.

Mr Lewis also suggested the Duchess of Sussex had been the victim of “structural racism” in the 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,” he told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme.

Mr Lewis currently has just four nominations from MPs and MEPs – 18 short of the total he needs to secure by 2.30pm on Monday if he is to make it through to the next stage of the contest.

He has, however, not shied away from taking controversial stands, describing himself as a republican and calling for a referendum on the future monarchy.

Pressed on Brexit, he said: “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.

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

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.”

Emily Thornberry has said she is confident she will get the nominations she needs to make it onto the ballot paper (Jeff Overs/BBC/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. I am going to get across the line and then we will move on to the next stage,” she told BBC1’s The Andrew Marr Show.

“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, dismissed suggestions that she was simply the “continuity Corbyn” candidate in the contest.

Rebecca Long-Bailey has denied she is the ‘continuity Corbyn’ candidate (Joe Giddens/PA)

“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 told the Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme.

“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.”

The shadow business secretary compared the “hostility” she had experienced from some sections of the press to that suffered by the Duchess of Sussex.

“Meghan, she’s talked about hostility from other kind of sections of the press,” she said.

“Certainly one of the things I’ve witnessed in my early days of my campaign – this was even before I’d decided to stand as leader – were the levels of abuse and the fact that I was getting targeted above all the other candidates for some reason.

“It seemed quite hostile and I think she’s faced horrific abuse within the press and that’s not acceptable. Don’t attack a woman for the sake of attacking a woman.”