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Race has been a key factor in politics for many years, says Sir Vince Cable

He said the Windrush scandal had shown that the public recognised that there had been a ‘terrible injustice’.

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable has said successive governments have assumed the public were “pretty bigoted” and needed to be offered “red meat” in the form of tough immigration controls.

Appearing on BBC1’s The Andrew Marr Show, Sir Vince  – who was business secretary in the coalition government when Theresa May as home secretary introduced tighter controls – said it was an “ugly truth” that race has been a key factor in British politics for many years.

However, he said the Windrush scandal had shown that the public recognised that there had been a “terrible injustice” to people who had wrongly been threatened with deportation.

“I think the working assumption successive governments have made is that the public out there are pretty bigoted and they have got be given red meat in the form of these very restrictive measures and it has done a lot of harm,” he said.

“I think the interesting thing about Windrush is that perhaps for the first time the public opinion has been ahead of the politicians in seeing that there is a terrible injustice here and it should not be allowed to pass.”

Sir Vince, who was criticised for a speech in which he said many older voters backed Brexit out of nostalgia for a world where “passports were blue, faces were white and the map was coloured imperial pink”, said he was acknowledging the fact that race had been a factor for some voters in the referendum.

“The ugly truth is that race has been a key factor in British politics. I was simply making that quite explicit,” he said.

“Large numbers of older people voted for Brexit for what they thought were very good reasons – nothing to do with that. Some undoubtedly were concerned with looking back to a world where immigration was not an issue in the way that it is today.”

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