A senior Cabinet minister will today accuse UKIP of “appearing to almost revel” in the outcry sparked its poster campaign and the racist and controversial remarks of its candidates.
Danny Alexander, the Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury, will use a speech to financiers to accuse UKIP leader Nigel Farage and anti-European Conservatives of being “snake oil salesmen” by advocating a withdrawal from the EU which would halt Britain’s economic recovery.
The intervention by the senior Lib Dem comes as polls continue predict a strong performance by UKIP in next month’s European Election despite a succession of gaffes and crass comments by the party’s candidates.
A UKIP council candidate yesterday defended tweets in which he said that actor and comedian Lenny Henry should emigrate to a “black country” and compared Islam to the Third Reich.
William Henwood, who is standing in Enfield, said he did not consider his messages concerning Islam or Dudley-born Mr Henry, who has recently highlighted the under-representation of ethnic minorities on television, to have been offensive.
The UKIP candidate told BBC News: “I think if black people come to this country and don’t like mixing with white people why are they here? If [Mr Henry] wants a lot of blacks around go and live in a black country.”
Mr Alexander, who is due to address a City audience to launch new research detailing the consequences of a UK pull out from the EU, said he held “strong views” on whether UKIP’s campaign posters are racist and the offensive remarks of some of its candidates represent the party as a whole.
He is expected to say: “There is considerable controversy about UKIP. You could say that they appear to almost revel in it.”
But the senior Lib Dem said the tempest surrounding UKIP was detracting from the debate on the issue of whether Britain should stay in the EU. He added: “In calling for the EU withdrawal [UKIP and Tory eurosceptics] are peddling a false cure that would kill the UK recovery and hurt every business and family in Britain.”
Mr Farage’s party has suffered a number of setbacks in recent days, ranging from the featuring of an Irish actor on an election poster about British workers losing out to foreign labour to having to suspend a candidate who had featured in an election broadcast for sending offensive tweets about Nigerians and Islam.
Nick Griffin, the leader of the far-right British National Party, accused UKIP of recycling, and softening, its own anti-immigration policies. He said: “If you look at UKIP they are using all our rhetoric, they are using our slogans, they are recycling our posters and people like it.”
A UKIP spokesman said it would be investigating the remarks made by Mr Henwood but accused its opponents of “behaving like secret police and trawling through the social media of UKIP candidates who are every day men and women”.
The steady stream of gaffes and attacks seems to have done nothing to dent the anti-EU party’s chances of electoral success next month.
A Sunday newspaper poll yesterday put UKIP ahead all other parties for the European election. The YouGov survey for The Sunday Times recorded support at 31 per cent for Mr Farage’s party, three points ahead of Labour with the Conservatives third on 19 per cent.