A senior Tory has accused the Leave campaign in the EU referendum of “lies and xenophobic campaigning”, saying it has forced her to change her mind and back remaining in the EU.
Lady Sayeeda Warsi, a former party chairwoman the first Muslim woman to attend cabinet until her resignation in 2014 over the Gaza conflict, said her decision was sparked by an “indefensible” poster released by Ukip leader Nigel Farage, as well as “lies” from Michael Gove over the prospect of Turkey joining the EU.
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She told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “This kind of nudge-nudge, wink-wink xenophobic racist campaign may be politically savvy or politically useful in the short term, but it causes long-term damage to communities.
“The vision that me and other Brexiters who have been involved right from the outset, who had a positive outward-looking vision of what a Brexit vote might mean, unfortunately those voices have now been stifled and what we see is the divisive campaign which has resulted in people like me and others who are deeply Eurosceptic and want to see a reformed relationship feel that they now have to leave Leave.”
Responding to Baroness Warsi’s comments, Mr Farage dismissed her ‘defection’ as a “Number 10 put-up job” and accused David Cameron of using the death of Labour MP Jo Cox to denigrate the Leave campaign.
The Ukip leader - who acknowledged on Sunday that Mrs Cox’s death had taken momentum out of the Leave campaign - told LBC radio: “I think there are Remain camp supporters out there who are using this to try to give the impression that this isolated horrific incident is somehow linked to arguments that have been made by myself or Michael Gove or anybody else in this campaign, and frankly that is wrong.”
He insisted that he had said nothing “inciteful” during the campaign, adding: “What we are seeing here is the Prime Minister and the Remain campaign trying to conflate the actions of one crazed individual with the motives of half of Britain who think we should get back control of our borders and do it sensibly.
“We have a Prime Minister and a Chancellor and other big political leaders in Britain who are scared witless. They thought they would win this referendum by a country mile. They know it’s neck and neck, they know it’s down to who turns out on the day to vote, and there is no level of denigration or false association that they will not stoop to, but I think people are intelligent enough to see through this sort of thing.”
Challenged over the poster, Mr Farage said: “If the timing of her murder and me putting out that poster has upset people, I’m sorry. That certainly wasn’t the intention. The intention was to use that poster for a day to point out that the EU is a failed project in every sense.”