'Admit you were wrong': UKIP deputy calls for a U-turn over rape remark

Aubrey Allegretti, political reporter

A row has erupted at the centre of UKIP over one of the party's election candidates refusing to apologise for saying he "wouldn't even rape" a Labour MP.

Deputy leader Mike Hookem criticised leader Gerard Batten for defending the remark, calling it "satire" and not a "literal statement".

Mr Batten admitted it was "ill-considered" but has not dropped the YouTuber-turned-candidate Carl Benjamin from UKIP's runners to become a member of European parliament (MEP).

Challenged on the issue by Sky News on Thursday, he angrily asked "how many times are you going to ask me the same question?" and walked out.

Appearing alongside Mr Batten at UKIP's campaign launch for the European elections later that day, when asked if it was acceptable to joke about rape, Mr Benjamin said: "100% - deal with it."

On Friday, Mr Hookem intervened the following day to call for both figures to "admit they were wrong".

He said that "with free speech comes responsibility and accountability", and that he was "greatly disturbed" by defenders of the rape comment.

The deputy leader wrote in a Facebook post: "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."

Earlier this week, three female MEPs - Jane Collins, Jill Seymour and Margot Parker - quit UKIP over the issue to join Nigel Farage's new Brexit Party.

Ms Collins said: "To have people like Carl Benjamin on the list for the party is something I find disgusting, and to hear Gerard Batten on national TV defending this man's use of rape as 'satire' made me sick to my stomach.

"I know women who have been raped and the mental and physical destruction it wreaks on these victims and their loved ones is the opposite of satire: it is a tragedy."