POLITICS

Boris Johnson Claims Ukip Leader Nigel Farage 'Essentially A Conservative'

29/04/2013 08:01 BST | Updated 29/04/2013 08:29 BST

Boris Johnson has said Ukip leader Nigel Farage is essentially no different from the Conservatives and is "a rather engaging geezer" in an about-face from the hostile exchanges between the parties over the weekend.

Writing in a column for the Telegraph, the mayor of London argues that Farage "is a blooming Conservative, for heaven’s sake; and yet he’s in our constituencies, wooing our audiences, nicking our votes, and threatening to put our councillors out of office."

As the Conservative party watches the Ukip surge in polls with an increasing sense of panic, Johnson warns his blue compatriots not to "do a Nicholas Cage."

Boris compares the way the Tories have responded to the perceived threat of Ukip with some of Cage's more overdramatic performances, urging his readers to google "any number of splendid YouTube compilations."

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'Don't panic' says Boris

He downplays the threat of the anti-immigration party, saying: "The rise of Farage and Ukip tells us some interesting and important things about what the electorate wants – and it is by no means bad news for the Conservatives. "

Taking heed of the old adage of "keeping your friends close and your enemies closer", Johnson comments that Conservatives should not "slag them [Ukip] off just for appearing to think, in large part, what many Conservatives think."

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Nigel Farage: 'an engaging geezer'

Savage exchanges between Ken Clarke and Nigel Farage were witnessed over the weekend, withUkip accusing the Conservatives of running a "morally reprehensible" smear campaign against its would-be councillors.

Government minister Ken Clarke branded Ukip "clowns" as the parties prepared to go into the local elections on Thursday.

On Sunday Clarke said the party had no positive policies and were merely "against" foreigners and immigrants.

He also insisted it was perfectly acceptable for candidates in this week's local elections to be picked up on dubious comments they previously made on Twitter and Facebook.

Speaking on Sky News' Murnaghan, Mr Clarke said: "They of course have not been able to vet their candidates. Fringe right parties do tend to collect a number of waifs and strays...

"Some of them are saying quite different things now they are in politics then their actual views."

Asked whether he agreed with David Cameron's 2006 assessment that the party was packed with "fruitcakes and closet racists", Mr Clarke replied: "I have met people who satisfy both those descriptions in Ukip.

"Indeed, some of the people who have assured me they are going to vote Ukip I would put in that category. I rather suspect they have never voted for me."

On Monday Mr Farage responded, saying: "They have lost the argument so Ken Clarke and others have decided that, rather than going for the ball, they are going to attack the player and that is exactly what this is about."

Mr Farage, whose party is fielding 1,700 candidates in the council elections, told ITV's Daybreak that rival politicians are afraid of Ukip.

He said: "They know that the British public are genuinely concerned about opening up the door to Bulgaria and Romania next year.

"They are concerned because we have a million youngsters unemployed, we have wages being driven down and I am afraid a crime wave in London being caused by Romanians already.

"These are tough subjects to talk about.

"All we are doing is talking the truth.

"There is nothing in Ukip that is racist in any way at all and Ken Clarke knows it.

"If he throws this abuse out, we will start having a proper debate."