Nigel Farage has declared “war” on David Cameron over immigration policy after the Prime Minister suggested some Ukip members may be racist.
The row over Ukip’s stance on immigration blew up after a council took three foster children away from a couple on the grounds their support of the party was “racist”.
Mr Cameron has previously said that Ukip members are mostly “closet racists” and Downing Street infuriated the party further by clarifying this weekend that not all Ukip members are racist.
Mr Farage today condemned the “slur”, arguing it is not racist to believe in tighter border controls limiting immigration.
“[David Cameron] alone in British politics today continues to throw this slur at us that because we believe in not having our law set in Europe and controlling our borders that somehow that is racist. If he wants an electoral war with my party on his immigration open door policy he can have one,” he told Sky News.
He said Ukip, which came third in the recent Corby by-election, would tackle the Prime Minister on his immigration policies in the run-up to 2015.
“At a time of youth unemployment of 21 per cent in Britain it does not make sense to have an open door,” he said. “I want people from all over the world to come and work in Britain, good skilled people who come here on work permits, not people who come here, compete for unskilled labour, qualify automatically for Job Seekers Allowance, that doesn’t make sense.”
The Ukip leader has called it a “bloody outrage” that a husband and wife, who have been fostering for nearly seven years, were told their views on immigration made them unsuitable caretakers.
The couple said they feared that there was a black mark against their name and they would not be able to foster again.
Campaigners representing foster parents have described the decision as “ridiculous” and warned that it could deter other prospective foster parents from volunteering.
Tim Loughton, the former children’s minister, said: “I will be very concerned if decisions have been made about the children’s future that were based on misguided political correctness around ethnic considerations.
“Being a supporter of a mainstream political party is not a deal-breaker when it comes to looking after children if it means they can have a loving family home.”
The couple, who do not want to be named to avoid identifying the children they have fostered, are in their late 50s and live in a neat detached house in a village in South Yorkshire.
The husband was a Royal Navy reservist for more than 30 years and works with disabled people, while his wife is a qualified nursery nurse.
Former Labour voters, they have been approved foster parents for nearly seven years and have looked after about a dozen different children, one of them in a placement lasting four years.
They took on the three children—a baby girl, a boy and an older girl, who were all from an ethnic minority and a troubled family background—in September in an emergency placement.
They believe that the youngsters thrived in their care. The couple were described as “exemplary” foster parents: the baby put on weight and the older girl even began calling them “mum and dad”.
However, just under eight weeks into the placement, they received a visit out of the blue from the children’s social worker at the Labour-run council and an official from their fostering agency.
They were told that the local safeguarding children team had received an anonymous tip-off that they were members of Ukip.
The wife recalled: “I was dumbfounded. Then my question to both of them was, ‘What has Ukip got to do with having the children removed?’
“Then one of them said, ‘Well, Ukip have got racist policies’. The implication was that we were racist. [The social worker] said Ukip does not like European people and wants them all out of the country to be returned to their own countries.
“I’m sat there and I’m thinking, ‘What the hell is going off here?’ because I wouldn’t have joined Ukip if they thought that. I’ve got mixed race in my family. I said, ‘I am absolutely offended that you could come in my house and accuse me of being a member of a racist party’.”
The wife said she told the social worker and agency official: “These kids have been loved. These kids have been treated no differently to our own children. We wouldn’t have taken these children on if we had been racist.”
The boy was taken away from them the following day and the two girls were removed at the end of that week.
The wife said the social worker told her: “We would not have placed these children with you had we known you were members of Ukip because it wouldn’t have been the right cultural match.” The wife said she was left “bereft”, adding: “We felt like we were criminals. From having a little baby in my arms, suddenly there was an empty cot. I knew she wouldn’t have been here for ever, but usually there is a build-up of several weeks. I was in tears.”
Her husband added: “If we were moving the children on to happier circumstances we would be feeling warm and happy. To have it done like that, it’s beyond the pale.”
The couple said they had been “stigmatised and slandered”.
A spokesman for Rotherham metropolitan borough council said last night: “After a group of sibling children were placed with agency foster carers, issues were raised regarding the long-term suitability of the carers for these particular children.
“With careful consideration, a decision was taken to move the children to alternative care. We continue to keep the situation under review.”
Ukip was once considered a single-issue fringe party but is now part of Britain’s political mainstream, with some recent national polls putting its support as high as nine per cent. Its manifesto includes a demand for Britain to pull out of Europe and to curb immigration.
It is also critical of multiculturalism and political correctness. It has a candidate in this week’s Rotherham by-election.
David Goosey, the chairman of the trustees at Community Foster care, an independent fostering charity, said: “If this is accurate and there are no other extraneous matters that have concerned the authorities, then it is completely ridiculous and no self-respecting authority should be stopping people fostering on the grounds of their membership of Ukip.”
Rotherham metropolitan borough council’s equality policy states that it is committed to “promoting equality and good relations between people of different racial groups”.
Senior Tories have criticised “politically correct” rules requiring children to be adopted by families of the same ethnic background.
In March, David Cameron pledged to tackle “absurd” barriers to mixed-race adoption, while Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, said last year that “Left-wing prescriptions” were denying children loving new homes.