Rishi Sunak has been criticised after accusing Labour and criminal gangs smuggling immigrants into the UK of “being on the same side”.
The prime minister made the incendiary claim on his official Twitter account.
He posted a link to a Daily Mail story about lawyers allegedly charging thousands of pounds to submit false asylum claims.
The PM said: “This is what we’re up against. The Labour Party, a subset of lawyers, criminals gangs – propping up a system of exploitation that profits from getting people to the UK illegally.”
He then posted a thread of tweets setting out how the government plans to stop the small boats carrying migrants across the Channel – and accusing Labour of trying to block it.
“Their plan for immigration is an open door,” Sunak said. “But I know stopping the boats is a priority for the British people. And I’m leaving no stone unturned to get it done.”
But the tweets sparked an angry backlash, including from some Conservative supporters.
Former Downing Street adviser Tim Montgomerie said it was “unbecoming from a prime minister”.
Writer and broadcaster Iain Dale said it was “pretty desperate stuff”.
Others condemned the prime minister’s tactics as “vile and desperate”, “disgraceful” and accused Sunak of “getting in the gutter”.
But some said Sunak’s attack was no worse than Labour’s infamous claim that the prime minister did not support the jailing of child sex offenders.