Lord Pearson of Rannoch told a party conference that the far right figure was his “friend” and had a great following among “our white working class” that could be be harnessed by the Eurosceptic party.
His video address to the second day of the event in Birmingham on Saturday was met with cheers and applause, the day after former leader Nigel Farage had warned it faces “total and utter marginalisation” if it moves to the extremes of politics.
Farage’s warning was dismissed by the current leader Gerard Batten, and a party source said that he alienated “a lot of high level members” by repeating it at a gala dinner on Friday night.
In a speech broadcast on a big screen Lord Pearson, who led the party from 2009-2010, said authorities were not talking about “three to five million rapes of our white children”.
He was cheered when he went to say: “Of course they are too worried about offending the sensibilities of our Muslim communities and that is why they won’t talk about it.
“But I think we should, and one person who has been talking about it more than almost anyone else is my friend Tommy Robinson.
“His reach, particularly with our white working class, is second to none and he has been brave enough to talk about this, to talk about Islam as it really is.
“Our white working class of course is beginning to boil. Anger is rising among our veterans against terrorism, our football lads against terrorism – and by against terrorism they mean the Islamification of their communities.
“So I don’t know where the issue of Tommy’s membership of Ukip will have got by the time you sit through this, but I’m absolutely sure he would be a huge asset to Ukip.”
He added that Robinson would also be a huge asset in fighting for Brexit, adding: “Can you imagine Gerard and Tommy on a platform against the Remoaners?
“They’d wipe the floor with them. So I hope Tommy will be accepted before too long into Ukip.”
Ukip’s current membership rules currently bar Robinson – real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon – from joining as he is a co-founder of the EDL.
But there have been calls for the rules to be changed, sparking fears among more moderate members about a rightward shift in its politics.
Farage, who will share a platform with senior Tory and Labour Brexiteers at a Leave Means Leave event on Saturday, said on Friday he was “upset” by the prospect of figures like Robinson being admitted into the party.
However a repeat of this warning in a speech at Friday’s gala dinner was met with only “polite applause”, according to a source who was present.
They added: “He (Farage) alienated a lot of high level members.”
It is also understood that Farage left the dinner before Batten gave his own speech to the gathered party faithful.
Batten had earlier hit back at his predecessor, suggesting he should be “a little bit more careful about criticising me” when he had himself shared platforms with right-wing German party Alternative fur Deutschland.
Batten confirmed that he would approve of party membership for Robinson, and said he stood by his descriptions of Islam as a “death cult” which sanctioned the use of sex slaves.