‘Racist’ Ukip posters: The backlash
Church leaders and politicians have hit back at Ukip after the party's largest-ever advertising campaign was branded divisive and racist.
Nigel Farage is using £1.5 million of funding from millionaire Paul Sykes to push its advantage ahead of the local and European elections on May 22nd.
One posters shows a massive finger pointed at the reader next to the message: "Twenty six million people in Europe are looking for work – and whose job are they after?"
Another featured a builder sat on the pavement with the message: "EU policy at work: British workers are hit hard by unlimited cheap labour."
In reality, there is a shortage of skilled construction workers in the UK.
The poster caused outrage online and prompted Labour MP Mike Gapes to brand them "racist".
He added: "This is a campaign designed to sow fear and envy and hatred towards immigrants.
"They are saying your job is at risk from 26 million people who are going to come in and take your work.
"They're saying people's problems in this country are due to immigration. Many of those people who are coming here are doing vital jobs for our economy."
The Labour MP compared the campaign to that conducted by the far right in Holland under Geert Wilders and France under Marine Le Pen.
Mid Sussex Tory MP Nicholas Soames, the grandson of Winston Churchill, tweeted: "At a time when our country really needs to come together, the Ukip advertising campaign is deeply divisive, offensive and ignorant."
Jon Ashworth, Labour's shadow Cabinet Office minister, said: "Ukip would have us believe they stand for working people but the truth is very different – they're even more right wing than the Tories.
"A vote for Ukip is a vote for higher taxes for working families, charges to see your GP, huge tax giveaways for the rich and even deeper cuts to public services."
The posters earned their most stinging rebuke from Cardinal Vincent Nichols, leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, who avoided mentioning Ukip by name but urged politicians to stick to a more measured tone when discussing immigration.
"We have to grow to appreciate the richness that immigration brings, not simply to the Catholic church but to the life of hospitals and many public sector areas where we are now embracing and dependent on people who come to this country willing to give and wanting to support their families back home," he told the Telegraph.
"What I would appeal today is that the debate about immigration is done with a sense of realism and a sense of respect – and that it is not cushioned in expressions which are alarmist and evocative of anger or of dismay or distress at all these people coming to this country."
The cardinal made the comments after visiting a Giuseppe Conlon House – a Catholic-led refuge for men waiting for a decision on their asylum claim.
"That can take four, five, six, seven years," he said.
"They will get vouchers for food but all other aspects of life are closed off to them.
"That creates tremendous personal and health issues for people who are waiting. They just live with this profound sense of uncertainty for year after year after year."
But Farage – who last year branded the so-called 'racist vans' from the Home Office "nasty" – defended the Ukip poster campaign as a reflection of the views of people "outside the Westminster bubble".
He added: "Are we going to ruffle a few feathers among the chattering classes? Yes. Are we bothered about that? Not in the slightest.
"Ukip is hugely grateful to Paul Sykes for his magnificent contribution to the great cause of restoring Britain's ability to be a self-governing nation. The political earthquake I have spoken of is on its way."
Sykes said: "I am supporting the biggest campaign in Ukip's history to bring home to the British people what is at stake. The European elections are the most important for years.
"We have the chance to support a party that represents a complete break with the past. The other parties, are content to work within the existing Brussels straitjacket."