Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has branded Ukip “über-nationalist” and “xenophobic” - but not racist.
The Conservative minster said Nigel Farage’s anti-EU party contains members who have made “racist calculations” but said he does not believe “in my heart” that the party is racist, The Telegraph reported.
Mr Pickles told the newspaper that Ukip is xenophobic and has exploited the public’s fear of immigration in a way that is “shameful”.
“Xenophobia is the fear of anything that’s different, anything that’s unusual, that’s slightly foreign,” he said.
“In a way, they are a sort of über-nationalist party.”
Mr Pickles’ comments came ahead of Mr Farage’s live interview with LBC presenter James O’Brien on Friday, in which he was repeatedly challenged over his attitudes towards immigrants, allegations of racism and his expenses before his director of communications was forced to terminate the discussion.
Ukip gaffes and controversies
Ukip gaffes and controversies
1/18 European elections poster
Party's latest EU election posters branded 'racist' and compared to BNP campaigns
2/18 Farage 'car-crash' interview
Ukip spin doctor forced to intervene as Farage falters in disastrous radio interview
3/18 Neil Hamilton
Picture Exclusive: The year is 1998. The venue is a Springbok Club meeting. The flag is a symbol for white supremacists in South Africa. And the speaker is Ukip’s deputy chairman, Neil Hamilton
4/18 Kerry Smith
Kerry Smith resigned as would-be MP for South Basildon and East Thurrock after it emerged he had mocked gay party members as “disgusting poofters”, joked about shooting people from Chigwell in a “peasant hunt” and referred to someone with a Chinese name as a “Chinky bird”
5/18 Natasha Bolter
Former Ukip member Natasha Bolter was suspected of not having the teaching qualifications she professed to, only days after it was revealed that claims of her having attended Oxford University were also false
6/18 Ukip Calypso song
Mike Reid released a single in praise of UKIP trying to control the UK's borders, only to withdraw the single after being accused of racism for singing in a Jamaican accent
7/18 Janice Atkinson
Janice Atkinson, Ukip's South East chair, pictured by protesters while campaigning in Ashford, Kent with local party chair Norman Taylor
8/18 Ukip cancels Freephone
Ukip cancels Freephone number after protesters repeatedly called to push up costs
9/18 Farage 'car-crash' interview
Mr Farage appeared to be caught out on a number of issues, from Romanian neighbours to people speaking foreign languages on the train
10/18 Ukip employs illegal immigrants
Ukip criticised after European election candidate found employing illegal immigrants
11/18 Magnus Nielsen
Ukip candidate: 'Take away the right to vote to improve election turnout'
12/18 Poster model
A “British builder” portrayed in a Ukip poster accusing EU workers of taking UK jobs turns out to be an Irish actor - aka a migrant worker
13/18 'Arrest protesters'
Ukip called for police to arrest protesters ‘who call us fascists’ ahead of showdown with anti-fascist groups in Brighton
14/18 London Live make-up
Ukip's Nigel Farage reportedly refused to go on London Live 'without professional make up-artist'
15/18 Andre Lampitt
Ukip forced to suspend the "poster boy" of its European election broadcast, after it was revealed he had posted a series of vile racist comments on Twitter
Nigel Farage says he is taking taking legal advice over “outrageous” allegations that he is responsible for more than £50,000 of “missing” EU funding that was paid directly into his personal bank account
17/18 Have I Got News For You
Nigel Farage appears in Have I Got News For You, spends the entire episode being ridiculed over expenses and party 'fruitcakes'
18/18 Anti-gay comments
Local branch chairman for Ukip defends a party's councillor candidate Douglas Denny who called gay people “abnormal” and said he wished “they stop trying to ram it down my throat”, all while discussing whether the word “sodomite” should be used
During the interview, Mr Farage insisted there was nothing racist about his position and complained that “all anyone wants to talk about is the idiots in Ukip”.
But he struggled to reconcile his views on immigrants with being married to a German woman and having bilingual children.
Asked about the interview during a campaigning visit to Lancashire, Prime Minister David Cameron said: “Mr Farage has done this interview and said frankly some pretty unpleasant things. I just hope people will look at this and recognise that we are an open, tolerant, compassionate country. Yes, we want to sort out the welfare system but we shouldn't put these labels on as Ukip do. It just sends out a terrible message about Britain.”
Mr Pickles said that the best way for the Conservatives to beat Ukip is “to show leadership, show a sense of purpose and show a long-term economic plan”.