Ukip has been accused of pandering to xenophobia by inviting two prominent figures from European anti-immigration parties to address its annual conference today.
The star speaker will be Timo Soini, the leader of the True Finns, a previously fringe nationalist party which scored a surprise success by coming third in the Finnish general election. Ukip has been attracted by the fiercely Eurosceptic outlook of the party, which tapped into opposition to offering financial support for Mediterranean nations hit by the Eurozone crisis.
But the True Finns have also described immigrants as "parasites on taxpayers' money" and suggested ethnically Finnish women should study less and spend more time having babies.
Mr Soini will be joined by the MEP Barry Madlener, of the Dutch Freedom Party. Its leader, Geert Wilders, has attacked Islam as a violent religion and compared the Koran to Mein Kampf.
A Ukip spokeswoman said the parties had been invited because of their shared Euroscepticism. She said the invitation was not an endorsement of their entire policy programme, adding: "We wouldn't seek to tell other political parties how to run their domestic affairs." But Denis MacShane, the former Europe Minister, said: "These parties show nothing but contempt for different faiths, different nationalities and different skin colours. There are plenty of anti-European politicians in Europe who could grace, or disgrace, the conference platform. Going for these two tells you all you need to know about Ukip."
Tim Bale, professor of politics at Sussex University, said the True Finns were among a new wave of avowedly populist parties that tapped into popular disaffection. "They are not after a rebirth of a Nordic super-race," he said. "But they will draw in some people with pretty extreme views."
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