Nigel Farage was accused of trying to score political points after blaming the terrorist attack in Paris on “multiculturalism”.
In a rare show of unity, the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat leaders condemned Mr Farage for saying the atrocity was the result of “having a fifth column” in Western countries, opposed to their ideals.
The Ukip leader told LBC radio yesterday: “We in Britain, and I’ve seen evidence in other European countries too, have pursued a really rather gross policy of multiculturalism. We have encouraged people who come from different cultures to remain within those cultures, and not to integrate fully within our communities.”
Responding during a visit to Manchester, David Cameron said: “Today is not the day to make political remarks or arguments. Today is the day to stand four-square behind the French people.”
Theresa May, the Home Secretary, said: “I think it is irresponsible to talk about a fifth column.” She said everybody should work to “ensure that we deal with and eradicate extremism, wherever it exists”.
Eric Pickles, who is responsible for integration as Communities Secretary, said: “All free societies are vulnerable to this type of attack and it is utterly wrong for any politician to be making political points when our neighbours in France are grieving. If we fight among ourselves or see our neighbours of any faith as the enemy, then the only winners are the gunman.”
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg told LBC that he was dismayed that Nigel Farage’s “first reflex is to make political points. To immediately imply that many, many British Muslims – who I know feel fervently British but also are very proud of their Muslim faith – are somehow part of the problem rather than part of the solution is firmly grabbing the wrong end of the stick.”
Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, said: “I don’t think Nigel Farage or anyone else should be seeking to divide us in this way .... The most important thing for now is that we are united and stand in solidarity with the people of France.”
Dame Tessa Jowell, the former Labour Cabinet minister, tweeted: “Sickening comments from Nigel Farage. The murder of innocent people is criminal plain and simple.”
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies