Homosexuality makes most Britons aged over 70 feel uncomfortable, the Ukip leader Nigel Farage claimed today as he defended the selection of a controversial parliamentary candidate.
Roger Helmer, who is standing in next month’s Newark by-election, provoked anger after he said some people find homosexuality “distasteful if not viscerally repugnant”. He has also likened same-sex marriage to incest.
Mr Farage, whose party hopes to achieve a dramatic swing to capture the safe Tory seat, said many of Mr Helmer’s generation shared his views.
“When Roger grew up and, indeed, when he was an adult, homosexuality was illegal in this country and he held that view for some period,” he said.
“Actually if we asked the 70s and over in this country how they felt about it, most of them still feel uncomfortable. He has said the world has moved on, he now accepts there’s been a big social change in Britain and he’s relaxed about it.”
Mr Farage told the BBC: “There are a lot of people in this country who are disconcerted by the change in the traditional meaning of marriage, and I think in a tolerant society we understand some people have different views.”
He said he had been forced to hire bodyguards to protect himself from anti-racist campaigners ahead of the European and local council elections on May 22.
He accused Unite Against Fascism and Hope Not Hate, which he described as “taxpayer and trade union-funded” groups, of posing a “level of threat” to his safety.
Mr Farage said: “I’m perfectly happy for them to come to my meetings and have an argument with me, but it’s not so much fun when they are banging me over the head with banners.”
Nick Lowles, Hope Not Hate’s chief executive, said: “Ukip and Nigel Farage are resorting to smearing us and telling lies because they are upset at the scrutiny we have been putting them under.”
Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrat Energy Secretary Ed Davey described Mr Farage as “almost a friend of criminals” because Ukip’s policy of leaving the European Union would end cross-border co-operation on crime.