Tory leader Michael Howard yesterday condemned as "outrageous" a claim that he was "inciting fear and hatred just like the Nazis" by making immigration and asylum an election issue.

An angry Mr Howard hit back after a caller to a radio phone-in accused him of using the death of his grandmother in the Holocaust to shield himself from criticism. The highly personal attack came as Mr Howard was being interviewed and taking questions on the Jeremy Vine Show on BBC Radio 2.

The caller, a woman from north London, told him: ?I think that what you are doing is very, very dangerous, the way you intimate that many immigrants and asylum seekers are bogus, tricking their way in and having a negative impact on this country.

?You of all people, as a Jew, should know how dangerous that kind of campaign is.

?And to do that and then hide behind the fact that your grandmother was murdered in the Holocaust, I think is absolutely disgusting because you are inciting fear and hatred just like the Nazis.?

Mr Howard angrily retorted: ?That?s an outrageous allegation to make and an outrageous comment.?

He insisted that he wanted to ?give sanctuary and succour to genuine refugees? who were let down by Britain?s present ?dreadfully unfair and inhumane system?.

Eight out of every ten people who claimed asylum were not genuine refugees, he told her. ?Because we have this dreadfully unfair and inhumane system in which people have to come into the country either illegally or under false pretences in order to claim asylum, these are largely the people who have paid the people traffickers money to bring them halfway across the world.

?Only two out of ten of the people who come and claim asylum are found to be genuine refugees.

?I would far rather give sanctuary and succour to the genuine refugees: to the mothers and the children who can?t pay the people smugglers, who don?t have the strength to come halfway across the world in the back of these lorries, who would come in legally so we can really help the people who need help.?

It is not the first time Mr Howard has come under fire on a radio phone-in over his focus on immigration and asylum.

Earlier in the campaign a listener to BBC Radio 4 accused him of ?saying things that appeal to racists? and another who said he was ?pandering to xenophobic views?.