British anti-EU party runs for Parliament accused of racism
UKIP, Britain's anti-EU party, launched its campaign for next month's European elections today, fending off accusations from rival lawmakers that its pre-election posters were racist.
With polls showing the UK Independence Party will come second ahead of Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservatives in the May 22 election but behind the opposition Labour Party, UKIP hopes to attract enough extra votes to win the ballot outright.
UKIP wants Britain to leave the EU and an end to "open door" immigration, particularly from inside the 28-nation bloc. Polls show immigration to be one of voters' top three concerns and Cameron is under pressure to make good on his promise to cut net migration to the "tens of thousands" by 2015.
Launching its campaign in the northern English city of Sheffield, UKIP released a series of posters urging voters to "take back control of our country" by electing UKIP candidates.
One poster featured a picture of a finger pointing to anyone reading it, saying "26 million people in Europe are looking for work. And whose jobs are they after?". Another showed a picture of a man dressed as a construction worker begging on the street, saying: "EU policy at work. British workers are hit hard by unlimited cheap labour".
Mike Gapes, a Labour lawmaker, said the posters were "racist", while Nicholas Soames, a Conservative lawmaker and the grandson of Winston Churchill, condemned them as "deeply divisive, offensive and ignorant."
"This UKIP campaign is a racist, xenophobic campaign designed to win votes by whipping up animosity against foreigners living and working and contributing to this country," Gapes wrote on his web site.
The party's leader, Nigel Farage, who is married to a German citizen, rejected the accusations, saying the posters were aimed at highlighting the fact that an influx of cheap foreign labour had driven down wages and increased youth unemployment.