Farage accused of ‘dog whistle’ politics after attack on Sunak

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Nigel Farage, Reform UK leader, was accused on Sunday of engaging in “dog whistle” politics after he claimed Rishi Sunak returned early from D-Day events in France because he did not care about “our culture”.

Farage says he has a “five-year plan” to replace the Conservatives as the main opposition to Labour, and his entry into the general election campaign last week as Reform’s new leader has sown panic in Tory ranks.

But his attack on Sunak over the prime minister’s decision not to join a commemorative event on Omaha Beach last week was deemed by his opponents to have crossed a political line.

“He doesn’t really care about our history,” Farage said of Sunak. “He doesn’t really care, frankly, about our culture.” He added: “This man is not patriotic.”

Mel Stride, work and pensions secretary, told the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg: “They are deeply regrettable comments.” He added: “It an ill-advised thing to have said. I feel very uncomfortable with that.”

Shabana Mahmood, Labour justice spokesperson, said of Farage: “This is a man that has a track record of seeking to divide communities who just wants to do it with a veneer of respectability whilst he’s at it.”

The Reform UK leader claimed he had meant that Sunak was “utterly disconnected” from ordinary people because of his “class and privilege” and not for any other reason.

He denied suggestions he was referring to the prime minister’s Asian heritage, arguing that Commonwealth citizens made up 40 per cent of the British war effort in the past two world wars.

But Mahmood said: “I think this is a classic Nigel Farage trick, lean just enough to signal a bit of a dog whistle and then lean straight back and sound perfectly reasonable.

“We can all see exactly what Nigel Farage is doing, he’s got form, it is completely unacceptable.”

Sunak’s decision to swap Omaha Beach for an ITV studio, where he launched an attack on Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, was seen by senior Tories as “a gift” to Farage, who is contesting the seat of Clacton at the July 4 election.

Morale at Tory campaign HQ is said to be very low and on Sunday Stride faced questions about whether Sunak would even still be Tory leader on July 4.

“There should be no question of anything other than that,” he told Sky News. Sunak will hope that the Conservative manifesto launch on Tuesday will allow him to regain some momentum.

Meanwhile, Farage told the BBC that the only question left in the election was whether he would provide the most effective opposition to Starmer. “The election is over — Labour has already won,” he said.

Although Reform UK is not expected to win many seats, if Farage gains a Westminster seat — at the eighth time of trying — it is likely to cause convulsions in the Conservative party about how to deal with him.

Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg, a former cabinet minister, is among those who have called for Farage “to hold high office” in the Conservative party. Farage says he wants to replace the Tories as “the real opposition”.

Senior Conservatives fear that in the coming days an opinion poll could show a “crossover” where Reform UK overtakes the Tories, in what would be a big psychological blow to Sunak’s campaign.

Elections expert Sir John Curtice said on Sunday that since Farage replaced Richard Tice as Reform UK leader last week, the rightwing populist party had risen by an average three points in opinion polls, with the Tories down two.


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