The UK Independence Party candidate for the Lancaster and Fleetwood election backed their policies on immigration during our live debate.
Matt Atkins defended UKIP’s policy to bring in tighter controls on migrants and also said the British National Party was “disgusting”.
Mr Atkins was speaking during our ‘Great Debate’ at the Guardian office with the Lancaster and Fleetwood election candidates, streamed live on the internet.
“When UKIP started making this a real debate in mainstream politics in a rational way, support for the BNP vanished,” he said.
“If you give people a proper voice on what they believe, they stop going towards extremism and start becoming more moderate.
“We’re promoting rational sensible policy to deal with a problem.
“The BNP is a disgusting party. The number of voters they were reaching was frightening. I’m proud we’re responsible for the collapse of the BNP. We don’t support their policies.”
But Chris Coates of the Green party said UKIP were “living off the dregs of the BNP” while Labour’s Cat Smith accused UKIP of “spreading fear”.
“I don’t believe there is the threat he’s talking about,” she said.
Eric Ollerenshaw, Tory candidate, said: “I don’t think UKIP is spreading fear to be honest. Are you saying the Labour party will do nothing about people’s concerns about immigration? People have a concern that immigration is too high.”
Cat replied: “A Labour government would bring in more transitional controls. Senior party leaders have admitted they got it wrong (during the last Labour government). We learn from our mistakes. It has to be about defending workers’ wages.”
Robin Long, Liberal Democrat candidate, said: “People are very concerned about rapid change to their culture and government have to listen to that, because that’s what scares them. They see a strain on local services because central government doesn’t adapt quickly enough.”
In the last General Election, UKIP and the BNP both had a candidate stand in Lancaster, UKIP picking up 1,020 votes to the BNP’s 938.
The British National Party does not have a candidate for Lancaster and Fleetwood in the 2015 election.
The debate was held on April 23.