Nigel Farage has been accused of exploiting the murders of cartoonists in France for political gain after saying the attack was a result of “a really rather gross policy of multi-culturalism”.
The UK Independence Party leader said there was a “fifth column” living in Britain and France responsible for terrorist attacks. He said the attacks underlined for “controlled immigration policy” with “full checks on everybody” who migrates to Britain.
Theresa May, the Home Secretary, condemned the comments. “It is irresponsible to talk about a fifth column”, she said.
Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, said it was “utterly wrong” to attempt to make political points so soon after the attack.
Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, said he was “dismayed” by the comments.
Last night, Mr Farage told Channel 4 News: “There is a very strong argument that says that what happened in Paris is a result–and we’ve seen it in London too–is a result I’m afraid of now having a fifth column living within these countries.
“We’ve got people living in these countries, holding our passports, who hate us.
“Luckily their numbers are very, very small but it does make one question the whole really gross attempt at encouraged division within society that we have had in the past few decades in the name of multiculturalism.”
He repeated the message on LBC Radio, saying: “What should have been done is we should have had a controlled immigration policy and made sure we did full checks on everybody who ever came to this country from anywhere – and that applies to everyone else.”
“We in Britain, and I’ve seen evidence in other European countries too, have pursued a really rather gross policy of multi-culturalism. We have encouraged people who come from different cultures to remain within those cultures, and not to integrate fully within our communities.”
Speaking on LBC, Mr Clegg said: “I’m dismayed that Nigel Farage thinks that on the back of the bloody murders on the streets of Paris yesterday, his first reflex is to seek to make political points.
“If this does come down to two individuals who have perverted Islam for their own bloody ends, the greatest antidote to the perversion of that great world religion, Islam, is law abiding British Muslim themselves.
“To imply that British Muslims, who I know are fervently British yet also proud of their Muslim faith, are somehow part of the problem not part of the solution is grabbing the wrong end of the stick.”
The term “fifth column” originates from the Spanish Civil War, and refers to a group living within society, or a besieged city, that covertly seeks to undermine it from within while aiding an external enemy.
Tessa Jowell, the Labour MP, tweeted that she found Mr Farage’s intervention “sickening”.
Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, said: “All free societies are vulnerable to this type of attack, and it is utterly wrong for any politician to be making political points when our neighbours in France are grieving.
“We still don’t know the full situation behind the atrocious events in Paris, but one thing is very clear. If we fight among ourselves, or see our neighbours of faith as the enemy, then the only winners are the gunmen.”
Mr Clegg, speaking during his weekly LBC show, issued a passionate defence of Charlie Hebdo, saying there is “no right to not be offended”.
He attacked a caller, named Omar, who said the attack was in response to “what was meted out to them” through CIA torture programmes and the invasion of Iraq.
“I cannot express how strongly I disagree with you,” Mr Clegg said.
“There can be no excuse, no reason, no explanation. They have killed cartoonists who have done nothing more than draw drawings that they so happen to find offensive. Do you know what? At the end of the day, in a free society people have to be free to offend each other.
“You cannot have freedom unless people are free to offend. We have no right to not be offended.”
“That fundamental principle of being free to offend each other is exactly what was under threat from these murderous barbarians.”