A former leader of Ukip has spoken out about the controversial appointment of Tommy Robinson as an adviser to the party – describing him as an ‘expert’ on Islam.
Lord Pearson, who led Ukip for a year following his election to the post in 2009, said Mr Robinson could teach Muslims about the Quran.
However, Lord Pearson appeared more supportive of Mr Robinson, telling LBC that he would rather have him in the party than Mr O’Flynn.
He said: ‘He’s co-authored with Peter McLoughlan a really important book on Islam. That is a book which puts the Quran into chronological order.
‘This is not just a mindless thug. This is a very clever man.’
When asked if there were any Muslim voters who could learn something from Mr Robinson about Islam, Lord Pearson replied: ‘Yes, I think we have to team up with them. There certainly are, yes, because a lot of Muslims don’t necessarily go into that sort of detail.
‘We really haven’t much of a hope in standing up to Islam long-term unless we do it, starting now, with our peaceful Muslim friends who have a very different view of Islam. That has to be the Islam of the future.’
Mr O’Flynn, a former political editor of the Daily Express, said that under Mr Batten Ukip had become ‘an impediment to the Brexit campaigning that I have energetically pursued for many years’.
He attacked the decision to employ Mr Robinson, suggesting the Ukip leader had ‘an apparent and growing fixation’ with the co-founder of the English Defence League.
Mr O’Flynn, who has represented the East of England since 2014, said that he was quitting to join the Social Democratic Party.
His departure follows criticism by ex-leader Nigel Farage of the decision to hire Mr Robinson, in a role advising Mr Batten on rape gangs and prison reform.
Last week Mr Farage said he would write to Ukip’s ruling National Executive Committee to demand a vote of no confidence to remove Mr Batten as leader, saying he was damaging both the party and the Brexit cause.
But Mr Batten defended his decision, describing Mr Robinson as ‘courageous’.
The decision was announced shortly after Ukip’s NEC voted not to stage a ballot on whether to allow Mr Robinson to join the party.
Mr Batten denied moving Ukip to the extremes or opening its doors to racists, and told the BBC Mr Robinson would help him turn the party into a ‘mass movement… a party for ordinary people’.