Insults fly as British MEP leaves anti-EU party for Tories
Britain's anti-EU UKIP party, which threatens to split the right wing vote and hand victory to Labour in 2015 elections, has suffered a reverse with the defection of one of its members to the Tories, triggering a war of words Sunday.
Amjad Bashir, a little-known member of the European Parliament, described his former party in The Sunday Telegraph as one of "ruthless self-interest" with a "ridiculous" lack of policies, while UKIP said it had already suspended Bashir after becoming "alarmed" by his behaviour.
UKIP, often mocked for its members' lack of party discipline and unsophisticated policies, has nevertheless shaken up the political landscape in Britain over the past few years.
The Tories have become increasingly concerned by the popularity of UKIP's anti-EU stance and leader Nigel Farage's 'man of the people' appeal.
UKIP now has two MPs following defections from the Conservative Party and won the European parliamentary elections held in May.
UKIP said on Sunday it had already suspended MEP Bashir before the news on Saturday that he had joined Tories.
"We have been increasingly alarmed by Mr Bashir's behaviour over the last few months," Farage told the BBC's Andrew Marr programme.
"I tell you what he can't deny and that's his continuing association with political extremists from Pakistan despite us saying please, please, keep away."
He repeated claims that Bashir "didn't tell us the truth" about allegations illegal immigrants were employed in his restaurant business and said there were "some big open questions in Brussels about money".
Bashir hit back calling the accusations a "desperate attempt" to smear him to distract from his defection while Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps said he was "absolutely satisfied" that the new recruit was a "mainstream" and "moderate" politician.
UKIP was until a few years ago a marginal party with the single goal of ending Britain's membership of the European Union. But it has become an increasingly-powerful political force, pushing immigration issues up the agenda.
Cameron is desperate to stem the tide of voters flowing to UKIP, fearing they will split the right wing vote and hand victory to Labour in elections due later this year.
© 2015 AFP