30/07/2013 07:37 BST | Updated 30/07/2013 08:06 BST

'Racist Van' Defended By Tory Mark Harper As Poll Finds Public Back Controversial Message

  • Farewell racist van?
  • The #racistvan gets trolled on Twitter

A government minister has insisted a controversial Home Office pilot campaign was not racist - as a poll showed the public narrowly agreed with the stunt.

After a backlash against the so-called 'racist van', immigration minister Mark Harper used an article in the Daily Mail to denounce the "astonishing reaction" from what he called the "pro-immigration industry".

"Let me clear this up once and for all – it is not racist to ask people who are here illegally to leave Britain. It is merely telling them to comply with the law," he wrote.

The controversial vans have left the streets

Campaigners bidded "good riddance" to the van, which told illegal immigrants to "go home", after a pilot scheme ended on Sunday.

Dubbed the #racistvan on Twitter, it attracted venomous criticism from the Liberal Democrats, with business secretary Vince Cable branding it "stupid".

It comes after a YouGov poll for The Sun found that 47% of people supported the uncompromising message, versus 41% who opposed it.

Asked whether it was 'racist', 61% said it wasn't, compared to 31% thinking it was.

39% said it was "in poor taste but necessary".