“If a black man had said something quite like that he’d have been called into Scotland Yard and and he might be charged with incitement to riot. It is bordering on criminality,” said Howe, who was a prominent figure in black rights campaigns in the period the document was written.
In a statement, Letwin said: “Following reports tonight, I want to make clear that some parts of a private memo I wrote nearly 30 years ago were both badly worded and wrong. I apologise unreservedly for any offence these comments have caused and wish to make clear that none was intended.”
Howe, who went on to become a writer and broadcaster, said he didn’t think David Cameron would remove Letwin from his post, saying he had “no trust in Mr Cameron on the issue of race at all”.
The former editor of the political magazine Race Today said the incident would provide an opportunity for the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, to stand up alongside the black community. “There are people in the Labour party who don’t want to be seen backing black people because they may lose white votes. Not Corbyn,” said Howe.
“I was saying about two days ago to a friend that Corbyn is going to get a chance to stand up with blacks and he will. And this is his opportunity. So that the black community knows that this is not the Labour party of Blair and the two Miliband boys.”
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