UKIP deputy criticises leader Gerard Batten for defending candidate's rape remarks
UKIP’s deputy, Mike Hookem, has criticised leader Gerard Batten for defending a rape remark made by one of his party’s election candidates.
Earlier this week, YouTuber-turned-UKIP candidate, Carl Benjamin stood by a 2016 Twitter post saying he "wouldn't even rape" Labour's Jess Phillips.
Appearing at the party's campaign launch, Mr Benjamin doubled down on the comments and branded Ms Phillips a "b*tch* - while Mr Batten downplayed them as "free speech".
But, in a post on Facebook, Mr Hookem said that "with free speech comes responsibility and accountability" and said he was "greatly disturbed" by defenders of the rape comment.
Mr Hookem said: "Rape is a heinous crime - often used as a weapon against its victims - that destroys the lives of the men and women who suffer it. "It is not something that should ever be satirised or joked about, and it is certainly not in my concept of free speech to do so.
"I would like to see those involved drop the pretence, take responsibility which comes with free speech, and admit they were wrong."
Three female MEPs - Jane Collins, Jill Seymour and Margot Parker - quit UKIP over the comments this week and joined Nigel Farage's new Brexit Party.
Challenged on the issue by Sky News on Thursday, Mr Batten asked "how many times are you going to ask me the same question?" and walked out.
Later that day, Mr Benjamin appeared alongside Mr Batten at UKIP's campaign launch for the European elections and, when asked if it was acceptable to joke about rape, he said: "100% - deal with it."