The campaign to leave the EU has turned into a leadership bid by Boris Johnson, Ken Clarke has said – calling him simply a nicer version of Donald Trump.
The former Tory cabinet minister, who has served as chancellor and home secretary, suggested Johnson was exploiting people’s fears about immigration in a similar way to Trump, the controversial US presidential candidate who is expected to become the Republican nominee.
“I think Boris and Donald Trump should go away for a bit and enjoy themselves and not get in the way of the serious issues that modern countries in the 21st century face,” Clarke said. “He’s a much nicer version of Donald Trump but the campaign’s remarkably similar in my opinion and about as relevant to the real problems the public face.
“The personalities get in the way and it’s no good turning the leave campaign into a leadership bid for Boris Johnson and anti-immigrant fears.”
Clarke’s accusations highlight the increasingly acrimonious divide between senior Conservatives campaigning on different sides of the EU debate.
Johnson and Michael Gove, the justice secretary, have been scathing about Downing Street’s record on immigration. They have said that Cameron’s failure to reduce immigration was “corrosive” of voters’ trust in politicians, while David Cameron and George Osborne have rubbished the leave campaign’s economic claims.
There is particular fury among pro-Brexit campaigners that Cameron is fighting so hard to keep the UK in the EU, with backbench Tory MPs Andrew Bridgen and Nadine Dorries calling for him to face a motion of no confidence.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Monday, Clarke dismissed these threats to Cameron’s premiership as a diversion at the same time as claiming that Johnson was using the leave campaign as a vehicle for a leadership challenge.
“All this stuff about whether one or two backbenchers have signed a letter calling for David Cameron to resign, I think most of the public would agree is a bit of a diversion,” he said. “The public are getting fed up of Tory civil wars when they thought they were being asked about the future of this country for their children and grandchildren.
“Why are the leave campaign turning the whole thing into an argument about Turkish criminals about to flood into the country and Boris Johnson’s bid for the leadership?”
This article was written by Rowena Mason Political correspondent, for theguardian.com on Monday 30th May 2016 10.15 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010