Nigel Farage and the UK Independence Party launched their biggest ever election campaign in Sheffield this week, immediately running into controversy over “racist” posters.
The Ukip leader said rivals were “screaming blue murder” over the images because they did not want to have an “honest conversation” about immigration.
He was in Sheffield on Tuesday to launch Ukip’s campaign for the European and local elections, financed with £1.5m from millionaire businessman and ex-Conservative donor Paul Sykes, originally from Barnsley, and one of the investors in Meadowhall.
Ukip is aiming to make headway in traditional Labour heartlands buoyed by coming second in by-elections in Rotherham and Barnsley since the last general election.
The Sheffield drive also follows Mr Farage’s TV debates with Deputy Prime Minister and Hallam MP Nick Clegg.
One Ukip poster warns that “British workers are hit hard by unlimited foreign labour”, another says that 26m people in Europe are looking for work, adding, with a picture of a finger pointing at the reader, “and whose job are they after?”.
Another complains that 75% of British laws are made in Brussels and that UK taxpayers fund the “celebrity lifestyle” of EU bureaucrats.
Faith leaders were among critics.
Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, said it was wrong to use expressions that suggest “dismay or distress at all these people coming to this country”.
But Mr Farage told the BBC: “The fact that Westminster hate it and want to scream blue murder over it is because they have opened up the doors, they have fundamentally changed the lives of millions of people and they would rather we did not talk about it.”
He said the party had known it was going to ruffle feathers among the “chattering classes”.
Ukip was not accusing foreigners of “stealing” jobs from Britons, but high levels of immigration from Europe had only been good for big business and rich people who wanted cheap nannies.
Nick Clegg appealed for help from Labour and pro-EU Tories to counter Ukip’s arguments in the run-up to May 22 and dismissed Mr Farage’s claims to be an insurgent.
He wrote in The Guardian that Ukip is part of the anti-Brussels “establishment” and its leader is the sort of professional politician he accused others of being.
“He and I were elected to the European Parliament on the same day in 1999. I left after five years. The Ukip leader is still there.
“More important, there is nothing remotely new about his party’s ambitions. Ukip is simply the fresh face of a long-standing Eurosceptic establishment, supported by many in the Tory Party and significant parts of the press.”