Ken Clarke calls Ukip 'a collection of clowns' and claims some of the party's supporters are racist and wouldn't vote Tory

Clarke also agreed with David Cameron's view that the party contained 'fruitcakes and closet racists'

Some potential voters for the UK Independence Party were denounced as racists by a senior Tory minister today as relations between the two parties plumbed new depths of acrimony.

Amid alarm in Conservative high command over the likely performance of the resurgent anti-European Union party in Thursday’s local elections, the Tory high command has authorised a drive to highlight the far-Right background of some of Ukip’s 1,730 candidates.

But Kenneth Clarke, the minister without portfolio, widened the Tory attack to accuse some people who vote Ukip of being driven by racial prejudice.

His comments brought a furious riposte from the Ukip leader, Nigel Farage, who accused him of “contempt for the ordinary men and women of this country”.

He told The Independent: “Ken Clarke looks and sounds like nothing more than a bloated remnant of the ancien regime, plucking crumbs from his velvet waistcoat and disdaining the people beyond the gates.”

Mr Clarke referred to David Cameron’s depiction six years ago of Ukip as being full of “fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists”.

He told Sky News: “I’ve met people who satisfy both those descriptions in Ukip. Indeed some of the people who assure me that they are going to vote Ukip, I would put into that category. And I rather suspect that they have never voted for me.”

Mr Clarke described some Ukip candidates as “clowns” and “indignant, angry people” and added: “Fringe-right parties do tend to collect a number of waifs and strays.”

Ukip has accused the Conservatives of “dirty tricks” by trawling through council candidates’ social media sites to uncover embarrassing comments about any of its candidates.

It said it does not condone extreme views, or links to organisations such as the British National Party or English Defence League, but protested that the Tories were acting like a “political lynch mob”.

There were fears in Conservative circles tonight that Mr Clarke could have gone too far by labelling some voters as racist and senior Tory sources refused to echo his comments. But they were unrepentant over the focus on Ukip candidates’ past views, insisting that such close examination was essential when people were standing for public office.

Patrick McLoughlin, the Transport Secretary, said he did not know anything about a “smear campaign”, but added: “Why should Ukip candidates get away without any scrutiny when other parties have scrutiny as far as their candidates are concerned?”

Ukip’s surge in the national opinion polls has dismayed the three biggest parties, each of which has seen its supporters attracted to Mr Farage’s colourful attacks on the political establishment.

But the Tories have been hit hardest by Ukip and fear a strong showing by the party in Thursday’s elections could cost them dozens of seats.

In the final few days of campaigning, Conservative activists have been advised by Central Office to warn wavering Tories that defection to Ukip would “let Labour in through the back door”.

Although there has been a relative spell of calm in Conservative ranks in recent weeks, a disastrous performance at the ballot box could revive internal criticism of David Cameron’s leadership. They are braced for about 300 losses, but more than 500 could set alarm bells ringing again among Tory MPs.

Critics have warned that a challenge to Mr Cameron cannot be ruled out if the party, which was beaten by Ukip at the recent Eastleigh parliamentary by-election, continues to haemorrhage support at the ballot box.

The Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg urged voters to examine Ukip’s policies carefully.

"I think the more you look at Ukip in terms of what they stand for, people would be a bit less attracted when they realise that Ukip's stance in favour of further cuts, meaning there will be cuts to your local schools and hospitals,” he said.

Hilary Benn, the shadow communities secretary, said some of its candidates appeared "pretty unappealing".

He said: “As Ukip have certainly risen in the polls they are being subjected to a lot more scrutiny, and quite right too.

“If you are going to stand for elected office then you should be expected to be scrutinised for the views that you hold, including the views you expressed in the past, so I don’t know what they are complaining for.”

On the offensive: What top Tories say about UKIP

Ken Clarke: "Fringe right parties do tend to collect a number of waifs and strays... It is very tempting to vote for a collection of clowns or indignant, angry people, who promise that somehow they will allow us to take your revenge on people who caused it.” Yesterday

Patrick McLoughlin, Transport Secretary: "Why should Ukip candidates get away without any scrutiny when other parties have scrutiny as far as their candidates are concerned?” Yesterday

Grant Shapps, Conservative Chairman: "Vote Ukip and you will let in a Labour MP and put Ed Miliband into Downing Street.” January 2013

Michael Fabricant, Conservative Vice-Chairman: "The Conservative Party might well win the 2015 General Election on our own. But a pact with Ukip on clear terms could deliver 20 extra seats. I have had no contacts with UKIP. But we cannot ignore the maths.” (November 2012)

David Cameron: "Ukip is sort of a bunch of ... fruitcakes and loonies and closet racists mostly. I don’t think I’m saying anything that hasn’t been said before.” (April 2006)

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Game Of Thrones
Uh-oh, winter is coming. Ouch, my eyes! Ygritte’s a goner. Lysa’s a goner. Tywin’s a goner. Look, a dragon
tvSpoiler warning: The British actor says viewers have 'not seen the last' of his character
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
Sport
The Etihad Stadium, home of Manchester City
premier league

The Independent's live blog of today's Premier League action

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Polly Borgen at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2012
peopleThe Emmy award-winner starred in Cape Fear, the Sopranos and Desperate House Wives
Sport
FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: 'Time Heist' sees a darker side to Peter Capaldi's Doctor
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
voices
News
Dennis Rodman has confirmed he is not going to the Middle East to 'talk to with the leaders of Isis' as claimed in a recent satirical report
people
News
people'Bring It On' actress says her legal team will combat the 'vultures'
Sport
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Sport
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
athletics
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: SEN Teaching Assistant required in ...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam