Ukip leader Gerard Batten walked out of a TV interview on Thursday after he was questioned over his defence of a party candidate who made a comment about raping a Labour MP.
In 2016, Carl Benjamin, who wants to be the Ukip MEP for the South West, tweeted at Jess Phillips that he “wouldn’t even rape you” and that “feminism is cancer”.
Batten has previously defended the Tweet as “satire”.
Speaking to Sky News this morning, the Ukip leader defended keeping Benjamin on as a candidate.
“If you are going to stop people taking part in public life, or anything else, for some stupid ill-considered remark of several years before, then I don’t think you’d have anybody in parliament or anywhere else in public life, because we all do things we regret,” he said.
He added: “I am not going to stop having a valuable candidate on the list, someone who can get us access to social media, and thousands more people.”
Pressed further, Batten got up and walked out of the interview. “How many times are you going to ask me the same question?” he said before leaving.
Speaking at the launch of Ukip’s European elections campaign today, Batten insisted his party is the “true” voice of Leave voters as he sought to counter the threat posed by Nigel Farage.
Batten, whose party has been reduced to a rump in the European Parliament after defections to Farage’s new Brexit Party, insisted Ukip has a future.
He said the May 23 contest would “inevitably be a re-run” of the 2016 Brexit referendum.
Under the slogan “Tell them again”, Batten told the event in central London that the referendum result had been “deliberately and cynically betrayed” by politicians.
But Farage said his former party had been “destroyed” by a “lurch towards extremism”.
Just three MEPs – Batten, Stuart Agnew and Mike Hookem – are listed as Ukip members on the European Parliament’s website.
The Brexit Party has 14 MEPs listed – although Farage claims the support of two more.