Theresa May has criticised Donald Trump for claiming there is “equivalence” between white supremacists and anti-fascists.
But the prime minister was attacked for not condemning President Trump strongly enough and was accused of having “the moral fibre of a slug and and the sycophancy of a hyena”.
President Trump last night said there were some “very fine people” who took part in the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and blamed “both sides” for the violence.
Asked about his comments today, May said: “I see no equivalence between those who propound fascist views and those who oppose them.
“I think it is important for all those in positions of responsibility to condemn far right views wherever we hear them.”
She added: “I absolutely abhor the racism, the hatred and the violence we have seen portrayed by these groups. The UK has taken action to ban far right groups.”
However May’s words were far less strong than those from three senior Conservatives who sharply criticised President Trump for his comments.
Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson, communities secretary Sajid Javid and prisons minister Sam Gyimah all spoke out strongly against the president.
Conservative backbench MP Johnny Mercer added about Trump in response to Gyimah’s tweet: “Losing moral authority? Never had it. Appalling individual; his success continues to be a tragedy for the US.”
A number of Labour MPs have demanded May’s offer to Trump of a state visit to the UK be scrapped.
Former shadow cabinet minister Chris Bryant attacked May for not going far enough in her criticism.
“Utterly pathetic. The rhetoric of a weasel, the moral fibre of a slug and and the sycophancy of a hyena,” he tweeted.
Lib Dem leader Vince Cable has also said Trump has shown himself “unable to detach himself from the extreme-right and racial supremacists” and should not be granted a visit.
This morning May spoke onboard the UK’s new aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, in Portsmouth.
“From here the Allied forces left from the Normandy beaches to defeat fascism on D-Day,” she said of the historic port city which is home to the Royal Navy.
In the past May has shied away from overly criticising Trump. However Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has repeatedly condemned the words and actions of the US president.
Last week, Corbyn used a campaign rally to tell Trump it was “much better to build bridges than to build walls”.
And he accused May of having wrongly decided to “team up” with the US President rather than speak out against him.
During ill-tempered exchanges with reporters at Trump Tower on Tuesday the president said there was blame on “both sides” for the violence in Charlottesville.
The comments appeared to equate the actions of the far-right demonstrators with those protesting against them.
Violence erupted on Saturday after a group of far-right extremists gathered to protest a decision to remove a statue of a Confederate general.
Heather Heyer, 32, later died when a car was driven into crowds as anti-fascist demonstrators clashed with the white supremacists.
Trump faced heavy criticism in the immediate wake of the unrest after he said there was blame on “many sides”.
He took two days to condemn the actions of the far-right groups in particular, eventually branding the KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists as “repugnant to everything that we hold dear as Americans” in a statement on Monday.
However, during a boisterous press conference at his Manhattan residence on Tuesday the president appeared to have reverted to his previous position.
He acknowledged there were “some very bad people” among the statue protesters, but added: “You also had people that were very fine people, on both sides”.