Roger Helmer MEP at centre of homophobia row unveiled as Ukip candidate for Newark by-election

Party leader Nigel Farage ruled himself out of the running only last week but now says he 'had a feeling early on' that Mr Helmer would be selected

Ukip has announced that the MEP Roger Helmer, who just last week was at the centre of a homophobia row, will contest the Newark parliamentary by-election in a bid to become the party’s first ever MP.

It comes after party leader Nigel Farage said last week he would not stand for the Newark seat, vacated after Tory minister Patrick Mercer stood down over a cash-for-questions scandal.

Mr Farage said at the time that a victory in the by-election would “completely transform the landscape” for Ukip, but eventually refused the responsibility for trying to fulfil that goal himself.

Instead, the job falls to Mr Helmer, who defected from the Conservative Party in 2012 and has represented the East Midlands in the European Parliament for 15 years.

He was criticised last week after The Sun reported how he had once noted that some people find homosexuality “distasteful if not viscerally repugnant”.  When challenged on his views, he told The Sun that it was morally acceptable to prefer heterosexuality over homosexuality, or vice versa. 

“Different people may have different tastes,” he said. “You may tell me that you don’t like Earl Grey tea. That may be a minority view but you are entitled not to like it if you don’t like it.”

In a statement posted today on the Ukip website, Mr Helmer said: “I am both proud and humbled to have been selected by the constituency association in Newark to represent the Ukip cause in this historic town in what could well prove to be an historic by-election.

“It would be a huge honour to be elected to serve as Newark’s MP and I will be giving my all over the next few weeks to achieve that outcome.”

Mr Farage also issued a statement saying he had felt from “pretty early on” that Mr Helmer would be selected as the candidate – despite only ruling himself out of the running five days ago.

Speaking about Mr Helmer, the party leader said: “He is a massively experienced and respected figure on the national political stage and on the local political stage as well. I know that the Ukip membership will rally to the cause of making Roger our first directly elected MP.”

On the topic of the homophobia row, Mr Helmer said that it was “morally acceptable to prefer heterosexuality over homosexuality, or vice versa”.

He told The Independent: “I said that people may prefer heterosexuality or homosexuality. I did not say that people could dislike – much less hate – other people on the grounds of their sexual orientation”

“The mainstream media are engaged in a feeding frenzy against Ukip, and are prepared to twist the facts to suit their agenda,” he added.

In 2011, Mr Helmer caused a storm by saying that homosexuality was akin to a mental health problem.

At the time he tweeted: “Why is it OK for a surgeon to perform a sex change operation, but not OK for a psychiatrist to try to ‘turn’ a consenting homosexual?”

The Newark by-election is scheduled to take place on 5 June, with the Conservatives selecting Robert Jenrick to run and Labour represented by Michael Payne. The Lib Dems are expected to choose a candidate in the coming days.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: On behalf of a successful academy i...

Investigo: Finance Business Partner

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Investigo: My client, a global leader in providing ...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - West London

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: WEST LONDON - An excellent new opportunity wit...

Recruitment Genius: Florist Shop Manager

£8 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A Florist Shop Manager is required to m...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project