Lord Heseltine, the former Tory cabinet member, has claimed that the UK Independence Party is racist.
Asked by the BBC if UKIP was racist, Lord Heseltine replied: “Of course it’s racist, who doubts that? Farage isn’t racist, but his party is very attractive to a racist agenda.”
The Conservative peer added: “We have seen the UKIPs before”, and went on to mention Enoch Powell and French nationalist leader Marine le Penn.
Lord Heseltine, the former deputy prime minister in the Conservative government in the 1990s, said that a vote for UKIP at the next general election would be one for Labour. He said: “The price of not voting for the Tories will be Ed Miliband.”
He urged his party not to be drawn by UKIP’s Eurosceptic stance and to focus on other matters.
“Europe is somewhere down about ninth on what issues people care about. People are just not interested. It’s a media hype-type issue,” he said.
Heseltine’s accusation of racism sparked an angry response from Amjad Bashir, who is standing as an MEP for UKIP in Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire. Bashir said: “Michael Heseltine has gone on TV and told the national broadcaster that UKIP is intrinsically racist. That is a very, very serious comment indeed.
“Well, he can come back and justify on national TV these baseless and repugnant remarks. I challenge him directly. He is an ignorant, out-of-touch dinosaur and quite frankly horrendously flippant by throwing about the word to suit his party’s agenda.”
It comes days after Gawain Towler, an aide to UKIP leader Nigel Farage, caused a storm by referring to a journalist as being “of some form of ethnic extraction”.