Tim Farron will today partly blame post-Brexit hate crime on Theresa May for making Britain a “nastier, more divided and more resentful country”.
At an event to examine the worrying rise in xenophobia, the Lib Dem leader will accuse the Conservatives of being happy to “play on prejudice for their own short-term gain”.
And he will personally target the Prime Minister, arguing she is now leading “the return of the Nasty Party” – the tag she herself once criticised.
Mr Farron will draw a connection between Zac Goldsmith’s “racist London Mayoral campaign”, the tactics of the Brexit campaigners and Ms May’s actions since reaching No10.
He will say: “2016 has been a year that has seen the Conservative Party’s attempts to detoxify their party go up in flames.
“This Autumn has seen Theresa May propose moves that will make Britain a nastier, more divided and more resentful country, with attacks on foreign doctors and students as well as checks on taxi drivers. I dread to think what’s in store this winter.
“These are the actions of a Nasty Party, willing to play on prejudice for their own short-term gain. Theresa May used to criticise the Tory Party for this approach, now she is leading it.”
Earlier this month, official Home Office statistics revealed a 41 per cent increase in the number of racially or religiously aggravated crimes recorded by police following the EU referendum.
They correlated with earlier figures which showed the number of alleged racially or religiously aggravated offences rose by 58 per cent in the week following the 23 June vote to leave.
Back in 2002, in a celebrated speech as Conservative party chairwoman, Ms May warned the Tories of the “uncomfortable truth” that the public viewed them as the “Nasty Party”.
But she has been sharply criticised for overseeing a shift to aggressive anti-immigrant language at this month’s party conference.
Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, has since backtracked on a suggestion that companies will be “named and shamed” if they have a high proportion of overseas workers.
However, Ms May herself has stood by her refusal to exclude foreign students from migration numbers – triggering a clash with her own Chancellor, Philip Hammond.
Mr Farron will speak at an event organised by The Runnymede Trust to address the problems of hate crime and xenophobia since the referendum result.
He will add: “It’s not where we come from that matters, it’s where we’re going. The Conservatives are risking just that with their reckless obsession with overall migration numbers, instead of standing up for what’s best for Britain.
“Liberal Democrats will fight for an open-hearted, open-minded and pro-European society. A diverse and powerful workforce is at the heart of that.”
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