David Cameron and George Osborne have hit out at Nigel Farage accusing the Ukip leader of an “irresponsible” attempt to stir up public fears over migrants.
Appearing in front of a BBC Question Time studio audience in Milton Keynes, the Prime Minister condemned a controversial Ukip poster showing migrants queuing to get into the EU under the slogan Breaking Point.
“I think that poster was irresponsible, I think there’s an attempt to frighten people,” said Mr Cameron.
Earlier Mr Farage rejected claims that he was stoking up hatred, complaining that he was the one who was being targeted.
Amid heightened sensitivity the immigration way has featured as an issue in the referendum campaign following the death of Jo Cox, Mr Farage found himself under attack from senior figures on both sides.
Chancellor George Osborne said the poster, which has already been the subject of complaints to the police over alleged racism, was “disgusting and vile” with “echoes” of literature which appeared in the 1930s – a reference to Nazi Germany.
“There are perfectly legitimate concerns about migration, concerns that are felt in every Western democracy in the world,” he told ITV’s Peston On Sunday programme.
“But I think there is a difference between addressing those concerns in a reasonable way and whipping up concerns, whipping up division, making baseless assertions that millions of people are going to come into the country in the next couple of years from Turkey, saying that dead bodies are going to wash up on the beaches of Kent, or indeed putting up that disgusting and vile poster that Nigel Farage did, which had echoes of literature used in the 1930s.”
Pro-Brexit Justice Secretary Michael Gove told BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show that he “shuddered” when he saw the poster. “I thought it was the wrong thing to do,” he said.
However Mr Farage defended the use of the poster, denying that he had been trying to stir up hatred.
“I think I have been a politician who has been a victim of it,” he told Peston On Sunday. “When you challenge the establishment in this country, they come after you, they call you all sorts of things.”
With the latest clutch of opinion polls suggesting Remain had recovered some of the ground it had previously lost, the Ukip leader admitted the campaign had lost momentum following its suspension in the wake of the alleged murder last Thursday of Mrs Cox in her West Yorkshire constituency.
“We did have momentum until this terrible tragedy. It has had an impact on the whole campaign for everybody. When you are taking on the establishment, you need to have momentum,” he said.