Former PM says by-election is not about Brexit but 'the fight against intolerance, prejudice and xenophobia'

PUBLISHED: 18:00 30 May 2019 | UPDATED: 18:01 30 May 2019

Gordon Brown speakin at the launch of Christian Aid Week at Church House in Westminster (Pic: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire)

Gordon Brown speakin at the launch of Christian Aid Week at Church House in Westminster (Pic: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire)

Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

Gordon Brown has warned Tory leadership hopefuls must reject Nigel Farage's "toxic them-versus-us nationalism" if they try to appease "back-seat driver" Nigel Farage.

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In a speech in Peterborough ahead of next Thursday's by-election, Brown will say a battle is raging for the "soul" of Britain, with "two views of our future competing against each other".

"Winning this battle will take time and its outcome cannot be predicted with certainty - but I know one thing for sure: we will never reunite as a nation unless we walk away from such intolerant nationalism.

"But it is a battle that is is difficult because it is not just Farage that we have to worry about.

"Britain is now witnessing a Tory leadership contest the outcome of which will decide not just our relations with Europe but the direction of our country - and one in which Nigel Farage is, the back-seat driver steering the Tory leadership race.

"To the next prime minister, and indeed to all candidates for the Tory leadership, I say you have a fundamental choice: to run against him or race to the bottom with him.

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"For when it comes to this toxic them-versus-us nationalism, no prime minister, indeed no candidate for such a national office, can be permitted to equivocate on what is unequivocally wrong."

He also appealed to the people of Peterborough ahead of the by-election to reject the politics of hate that the Brexit Party promotes, and to focus on the bigger picture.

He will say: "Now is the time to get this harsh but necessary truth about the nature of Farage's thinking and intentions across to all of our citizens and to draw a line in the sand: to call on the tolerant, fair minded, decent, patriotic majority of British people, who include millions of Leave voters as well as Remain voters, to speak up against the hijacking of our patriotism and this descent into the heart of darkness.

"For what is now at stake is far bigger than Brexit: it is a fight against intolerance, prejudice, xenophobia and the manufacture of division.

"But I believe that, despite last Thursday's result, the British people can be persuaded to say clearly, 'not in my name': his intolerance does not represent us; in his prejudices he does not speak for the majority.

"This is not Farage's country, not Farage's Britain.

"And I believe that when they see the facts, the vast majority of the British people will say that his intolerance and isolationism is not an expression of their deeply-held British values but a desertion of them.

"And so, the new fight in Britain is not so much between those who in 2016 voted Remain and those who voted Leave, there are millions of Leave voters who will not subscribe to extremism, but between those who support Faragism as against the tolerant, patriotic majority who will not in my view remain silent."

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