We are currently trialling our new-look independent.co.uk website - please send any feedback to beta@independent.co.uk

UK Politics

Another Ukip public figure leaves party amid same sex marriage row


Another Ukip public figure has been forced out of the party after expressing support for gay marriage, days after the party sacked their youth leader, who spoke out on the issue on national radio.

Richard Lowe, Ukip's prospective parliamentary candidate for Chester, says he was forced to resign after local party leaders said they would not campaign for "anyone who publicly supports same sex marriage".

Mr Lowe had recently written a letter to local newspaper the Chester Standard, expressing his support for equal marriage. Opposition to gay marriage is Ukip party policy, but Mr Lowe said the issue should be "a matter of conscience".

Mr Lowe said that local party leaders told him that they objected to his views on several matters including his lukewarm anti-EU stance and his support for immigration. However, Mr Lowe believes his position on gay marriage was "the straw that broke the camel's back".

"They said that after all that, they couldn't campaign for anyone who publicly supports same sex marriage. As such, I felt I had no choice but to resign," he told The Independent.

Ukip spokesman Gawain Towler said Mr Lowe's resignation was his own choice.

"To say he was forced to resign is wrong. Three people in the local branch committee spoke to him and said 'would you resign?' No-one forced him to," he said. "People can hold any views they wish within the party, but when you speak on behalf of the party you should back the views of the party. That is normal in any political party."

Earlier this week Olly Neville, the leader of Young Independence, the Ukip youth group, was stripped of his post after expressing his support for gay marriage in a BBC Radio 4 interview. He also said that EU elections should not be a priority for the party.

Writing in The Independent, Mr Neville said that Ukip was "on the wrong side of history" on gay marriage.

Ukip, which characterises itself as a libertarian party and was described as a "party of eccentrics" by its leader Nigel Farage earlier this week, is hoping to attract Conservative voters alienated by the party leadership's support of gay marriage. Ukip chairman Steve Crowther has called the policy "extremely important" to the party.

* More than 1,000 priests signed a letter in The Daily Telegraph today voicing concerns that same-sex marriage could threaten religious freedoms and may even lead to Roman Catholics being excluded from jobs. In the letter, they claim that same-sex marriage could threaten freedoms in a way that was last seen during the centuries of persecution of Catholics in England.