The UK Independence Party (Ukip) faced embarrassment last night after it received the unwanted endorsement of the far-Right English Defence League for next month’s local council elections.
Ukip, which is fielding up to 2,000 candidates in the contests and is currently third in most national opinion polls, rapidly distanced itself from the “abhorrent and stupid” anti-Islamic organisation.
In an ungrammatical posting on its Facebook page, the EDL leadership said: “All nationalist parties should stand aside in areas that Ukip have a good chance of winning.
“Let’s not split their vote. We might take a couple or a few hundred votes of them, we don’t come no where and we’ve cost UKIP the win because they come 50, 60 votes behind Labour.”
Its comments appear to be aimed at supporters tempted to vote for the British National Party or the National Front in the elections on May 2.
The EDL largely concentrates on street protests, but it was previously linked with another organisation on the extreme Right, the British Freedom Party, which is currently defunct.
The Facebook page also contains a link to a clip of a speech about Islam by Nigel Farage, the Ukip leader, and to information about the party’s local election campaign.
Under Mr Farage’s leadership, Ukip has striven hard to lose its reputation for extremism following accusations that it is the “BNP in suits”. David Cameron once described it as a “bunch of fruitcakes and loonies and closet racists, mostly”.
Its constitution forbids membership to supporters who have ever belonged to the BNP, the National Front, the EDL or other nationalist organisations.
A Ukip spokesman said: “We find the EDL not just abhorrent, but stupid because it looks at people as groups rather than individuals. We don’t share their aims or ambitions. I think (EDL leader) Tommy Robinson has a rather inflated view of his importance.”
Ukip has gained three council seats since it overhauled the Conservatives to come second in the Eastleigh parliamentary by-election in February.
Its latest victory came two days ago in a contest for a seat on North East Lincolnshire council. It also gained seats in Havering, east London, and Runnymede, Surrey, last month.
Ukip is mounting its biggest ever council election push next month. For instance, it is fielding 54 candidates in contests for Somerset County Councils compared with four the last time the seats were contested and is putting up a full slate in Devon.
Last night a senior Labour source said: “Ukip should be ashamed that their rhetoric and policies have such appeal to those on the far-Right who want to stir up hatred.”
Natalie Bennett, the Green Party leader, said: “I think many voters who might have been thinking of voting Ukip as an expression of frustration with the sheer incompetence of this government, or out of a desire for a new economic direction, will now be thinking again as this news gets out.”
She added that Ukip were “not a serious political option”.