Comedian Russell Brand has condemned Nigel Farage as a ‘pound shop Enoch Powell’ as the pair clashed on television.
Appearing on the BBC’s Question Time, the UKIP leader insisted Britain was ‘overcrowded’ and immigration was driving down people’s quality of life.
Dismissing a suggestion from an Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) board member that there is ‘masses’ of room in Britain, Mr Farage said: “If you fly into Gatwick you will see lots of green spaces, that is certainly true.
“However, if you have a country in which the population goes up as a direct result of immigration, what you find is not a shortage of green fields… you find a shortage of primary school places, you find a shortage of GP surgeries.”
But Brand hit back by comparing the MEP to Tory politician Powell, who is known for his 1968 ‘rivers of blood’ speech on immigration.
“I sometimes feel worried about you, Nigel Farage… immigrants are not causing the economic problems and suffering we are experiencing,” he said.
“As much as any of us I enjoy seeing Nigel Farage in a boozer with a pint and a fag laughing off his latest scandals about breastfeeding or whatever, I enjoy it.
“But this man is not a cartoon character. He ain’t Del Boy. He ain’t Arthur Daley. He is a pound shop Enoch Powell, and we’ve got to watch him.”
Later, Brand defended his decision not to vote at elections, arguing that politicians had to ‘give us something to vote for’.
The comedian and actor did come under fire for sexist behaviour and bullying fellow panellists.
As communities minister Penny Mordaunt praised firefighters, Brand interrupted, saying: “Pay their pensions then, love. Excuse the sexist language… I’m working on it.”
But shadow international development secretary Mary Creagh told him: “One of the things that people really don’t like is men talking over women on these types of shows, and our voices not being heard.”
Twitter was abuzz with reaction throughout the animated debate. Opinions were divided on the performance of Brand and Farage, with some claiming the audience were the stars of the show.
Piers Morgan, who appeared as a panellist on the programme earlier this year alongside QPR footballer Joey Barton in a similarly heated debate, wrote: “This audience is fantastic. You wouldn’t see this on TV anywhere else in the world. Hilariously British.”
Barton, who tweeted his thoughts throughout last night’s debate, said the audience had outperformed the guests, referring to some raucous interjections as people began shouting their opinions.
But US historian Dr Tim Stanley, who also writes for the Telegraph, referenced the irony of some guests deriding politicians.
“Audience attacks politics for being rude. Then shouts down speakers. Britain in 2014,” he wrote on the social networking platform.
The presence of two such controversial panellists as Brand and Farage on the current affairs programme did not please everyone though.
Former deputy prime minister John Prescott said: “I think it’s terrible when @bbcquestiontime puts on publicity-hungry comedians to chase ratings. #bbcqt.”
Meanwhile Nick Chambers tweeted: “Most worrying thing about modern politics is that @rustyrockets and @Nigel_Farage are even allowed on question time. #whatstheworldcomingto.”