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James Cleverly on racism: 'I don't actually agree that it's getting worse'

James Cleverly spoke on ITV's Peston Show about growing up 'against a backdrop of casual racism'. Credit: ITV Peston

Conservative Party chairman James Cleverly has told ITV News' Political Editor Robert Peston he doesn't think racism is getting worse in the UK.

Speaking on ITV's Peston Show about allegations of racism in Britain on social media, he said: "I grew up against a backdrop of casual racism, on the TV, in society and we are an infinitely, infinitely more open and tolerant country than we were in the 1970s."

When asked whether it's getting worse again, Mr Cleverly said: "No I don’t actually agree that it’s getting worse.

"I think one of the things that we see is because of social media we are in problems, and there are unfortunately always going to be problems, but they get more exposure, and that is probably a good thing."

He adds: "There will always be a certain degree of the fear of difference and unfortunately that does manifest itself in the terms of racism."

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When asked whether he felt media coverage of Meghan Markle has "a racist tinge" Mr Cleverly also said he wouldn't know.

He said: "Well, I can’t tell, I’ve not looked in detail at all the comments that have been made about the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

"If anybody in society feels attacked and oppressed through racism that is something that we should address and that we should be conscious of."

He added: "I mean these are very, very complicated issues and being a member of the Royal Family in the modern media age and against the backdrop of social media is going to be an incredibly difficult thing and I completely understand that it is not necessarily a pressure that absolutely everybody would want to endure."

However Labour MP for Nottingham East, Nadia Whittome, disagreed with Mr Cleverly about racism in the country not worsening and that it is actually "on the rise".

Labour MP for Nottingham East, Nadia Whittome, says racism is on the rise. Credit: ITV Peston

Ms Whittome said: "That is not the case, we only have to look at our own Prime Minister comparing Muslim women to letterboxes, saying he feels nervous walking past black men."

She added: "Racism is on the rise and it's being fuelled by people in positions of power."

Meanwhile Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat said he was "not nearly as qualified to talk about racism as James is".