David Cameron branded the UK Independence Party "a bunch of fruit cakes and loonies and closet racists" yesterday. UKIP leaders described Mr Cameron's remarks as "sad, silly, stupid", and suggested that they were a sign of the Conservative leader's inexperience.
The exchange suggests Tory strategists are anxious about the drift of potential supporters to UKIP, which advocates outright withdrawal from the EU and strict immigration controls.
Mr Cameron's comments came after UKIP said it wanted to use the Freedom of Information Act to force the Tories to name wealthy backers who had loaned the party money. Asked on LBC radio for his reaction, Mr Cameron replied: "UKIP is sort of a bunch of fruit cakes and loonies and closet racists mostly."
Mr Cameron later claimed UKIP's founder, Alan Sked, had left UKIP because "he thought they had been infiltrated by the far right." He added: "I was making a general point that they are the 'stop the world, I want to get off' party.'' UKIP's leader, Roger Knapman, said: "We got nearly three million people to vote for us at the last European elections and by implication he's saying they are supporting a racist organisation. We are not.
"It was a sad, silly, stupid affair by Mr Cameron who is inexperienced as party leader,'' he told BBC Radio's World at One programme.
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