Ukip faces renewed accusations of sexism as Stuart Wheeler claims women are not as competitive as men

And that man Godfrey Bloom protested that women were sometimes given preferential treatment in the workplace

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The Independent Online

For a party at pains to combat its reputation as a refuge for older men with views most kindly described as traditional, it was not the most helpful of comments.

And the UK Independence Party is facing renewed accusations of sexism after its treasurer suggested women should not be promoted to company boards because they were not as good as men at chess, bridge or poker.

Stuart Wheeler's remark came just days after Ukip was embroiled in a racism row when a prominent Euro-MP, Godfrey Bloom, attacked the allocation of British aid to countries in "bongo bongo" land.

Mr Wheeler spoke his mind at a debate on whether "gender quotas" should be imposed on companies to force them to appoint more women to senior positions.

"I would just like to challenge the idea that it is necessary to have a lot of women, or a particular number, on a board," he said.

"Business is very, very competitive and you should take the performance of women in another competitive area, which is sport where [men] have no strength advantage.

"Chess, bridge, poker - women come absolutely nowhere. I think that just has to be borne in mind."

Clare Gerada, the chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners, who was at the debate, immediately berated him for the "disingenuous, sexist comment". She said: "My mother, at 83, is the biggest bridge champion and continues to be year on year. I think that is such a disingenuous, sexist comment."

Mr Bloom, who also attended the discussion on quotas, protested that women were sometimes given preferential treatment in the workplace.

He joked that he and the party's leader, Nigel Farage, wanted an invitation to a 'bunga bunga' party hosted by former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Ukip, which has just conducted extensive testing of potential European election candidates to root out those with maverick views, played down the "tongue-in-cheek" comments.

But the Labour MP Alison McGovern said: "These offensive and ignorant comments are yet more evidence that Ukip has become the laughing stock of British politics. Stuart Wheeler should apologise and he should try thinking before he opens his mouth, too."

Mr Wheeler later denied his comments were sexist. He said: "All I was saying was there are areas were women are not as good as men, I'm sure there are areas men are not as good as women and therefore I don't think it's always essential to have a minimum number of either."

A Ukip spokesman said: "Mr Wheeler's comments were an anecdotal example to underline the point that quotas are not the way to appoint company boards. Companies, like any organisation need the best they can get to ensure they survive in a competitive world.

"Meanwhile it was abundantly clear to every person in the room that the comments made about Berlusconi were a joke, something the media seem to have a huge problem wrapping their heads around."