In Depth

Nigel Farage defends ‘racist’ immigration posters

Debate rages over Ukip’s anti-EU election posters: are they racist or do they tell the truth?

UKIP leader Nigel Farage has defended his party’s campaign strategy after critics branded its posters for next month’s European elections “racist”.

One poster shows a builder in a hard hat sitting on the street begging for change with the slogan: “EU policy at work. British workers are hit hard by unlimited cheap labour.”

Another poster, with a giant hand pointing out of the image, reads: “26 million people in Europe are looking for work. And whose jobs are they after?”

Labour MP Mike Gapes said the posters were "racist" and called on "all decent British Commonwealth and EU citizens" to vote in the May 22 election.

Farage defended the posters in typically relaxed style, saying he was happy to "ruffle a few feathers among the chattering classes."

But in an article published in The Guardian, Nick Clegg attacked Farage’s attempts to position himself as a political underdog. On the contrary, Clegg said, Ukip is an arm of the “longstanding Eurosceptic establishment” that had been given a "free run" in the EU debate for too long.

Ukip’s blunt campaign posters have split newspaper columnists. Writing for The Times, Douglas Murray said that the major parties’ efforts to silence Ukip result from their own discomfort on the subject of immigration.

A “chasm has grown” between what the British public thinks about immigration and what politicians do about it, he says: 77 per cent of the public would like immigration to be reduced and “the days in which this could be portrayed as barely sublimated bigotry are past”.

“If the political class don’t like the Ukip posters then there is a way to deal with it,” he writes. “It is not to critique the posters but rather to address the facts they speak to.”

Setting out the opposing view in an open letter to Farage published in The Independent, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown says the Ukip leader “must know” that Britain only maintains its position of political authority in the world by being “pro-European, open and cosmopolitan”.

Ukip’s policies only appeal because they “tap into widespread anxieties about migration”, Alibhai-Brown says.

In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Britain’s most senior Roman Catholic cleric, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, called for “realism and respect” in the immigration debate. Nichols said Britain should celebrate the “richness” offered by migrants, rather than seeing their presence as something deserving of “anger or dismay”.

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