Roger Helmer MEP has been chosen by his party Ukip as their candidate for the Newark by-election.
Show Hide image

Meet Ukip's seal-hating, gay-baiting, victim-blaming Newark candidate, Roger Helmer

He doesn't think homophobia exists, blames rape victims, and seems to be sexually confused about Earl Grey tea.

Ukip has announced its candidate for the Newark by-election: the MEP Roger Helmer. Surely Ukip is just trolling us now? Here are a best-of, or worst-of, his most incendiary remarks:

Disliking gay people is like disliking Earl Grey tea

He told the Sun in April this year that Brits should be able to dislike homosexuals, like they don't like certain types of tea:

... [some people find homosexuality] distasteful if not viscerally repugnant... Different people may have different tastes. You may tell me that you don’t like Earl Grey tea. That may be a minority view but you are entitled not to like it if you don’t like it.

Helmer later told the Independent that people may prefer "heterosexuality or homosexuality" and accused the media of "a feeding frenzy against Ukip".

Being gay is "abnormal and undesirable" and not to be "celebrated"

He made these remarks in a 2000 pamphlet, which were picked up by the Sun. He also said homosexuality is "not a lifestyle worthy of valid equal respect".

Equal marriage is like incest

Helmer asked, baffled:

"If two men can be married, why not three men? Or two men and a woman?... Why not a commune? If two men have a right to marry, how can we deny the same right to two siblings? Are we to authorise incest?"

The distinction between "date" and "stranger" rape

In his own blog in May 2011, Helmer imagined, probably stroking his trademark moustache during his musings, a date scenario to distinguish between 'two types' of rape:

The first is the classic “stranger-rape”, where a masked individual emerges from the bushes, hits his victim over the head with a blunt instrument, drags her into the undergrowth and rapes her, and the leaves her unconscious, careless whether she lives or dies.

The second is “date rape”.  Imagine that a woman voluntarily goes to her boyfriend’s apartment, voluntarily goes into the bedroom, voluntarily undresses and gets into bed, perhaps anticipating sex, or naïvely expecting merely a cuddle.  But at the last minute she gets cold feet and says “Stop!”.  The young man, in the heat of the moment, is unable to restrain himself and carries on.

In both cases an offence has been committed, and the perpetrators deserve to be convicted and punished.  But whereas in the first case, I’d again be quite happy to hang the guy, I think that most right-thinking people would expect a much lighter sentence in the second case.  Rape is always wrong, but not always equally culpable.

My two scenarios also give the lie to one of the popular over-simplifications trotted out by the feminist tendency in these cases: “Rape is always about power and control and domination, never about sex”.  In the first case, that may well be true.  In the second case, it is clearly not true.

Oh, and if you're unsure whether or not he'd have your vote yet, he ploughed on by saying the victim should 'share the blame':

... while in the first case, the blame is squarely on the perpetrator and does not attach to the victim, in the second case the victim surely shares a part of the responsibility, if only for establishing reasonable expectations in her boyfriend’s mind.

The "Great Climate Myth" of global warming

Helmer labelled climate change the "Great Climate Myth", and spent £9,000 on a poster campaign for climate change scepticism. His slogan was the inspiring: "Green climate change policies: Probably unnecessary, Certainly ineffectual, Ruinously expensive."

He responded to critics by saying "I am speaking for the majority of British voters".

Homophobia "describes something which simply does not exist"

Helmer has been busted for many anti-gay remarks in his time as an MEP, once tweeting that psychiatrists should be allowed to try “turn” homosexuals straight: “Why is it OK for a surgeon to perform a sex change operation, but not OK for a psychiatrist to try to ‘turn’ a consenting homosexual.”

On his blog, which is essentially reading material for Ukippers on speed, he wrote this about homophobia:

"... let me point out that the neologism “homophobia” is not so much a word as a political agenda.  In psychiatry, a phobia is defined as an irrational fear.  I have yet to meet anyone who has an irrational fear of homosexuals, or of homosexuality.  So to the extent that the word has any meaning at all, it describes something which simply does not exist.  “Homophobia” is merely a propaganda device designed to denigrate and stigmatise those holding conventional opinions, which have been held by most people through most of recorded history.  It is frightening evidence of the way in which political correctness is threatening our freedom.  It is creating “thought crimes”, where merely to hold a conventional opinion is seen, in itself, to be unacceptable and reprehensible.  I’m sorry, but I don’t buy it."

Uh, no. Nor do we.

Rioters should be "shot on sight"

When he was a Conservative MEP (he defected to Ukip in March 2012), he tweeted an astonishing response to the London riots in August 2011:

"Memo to COBRA: Time to get tough. Bring in the Army. Shoot looters and arsonists on sight."

Then a gentler response...

"Let's try water cannon/plastic rounds first. But if the police lose control completely, tougher measures are called for."

"Dumb" seal cubs deserve to be killed

In 2006, Helmer commented that beating "dumb" seal cubs on the head was a "humane" way of killing them, and he told a 17-year-old animal rights campaigner to "save your concerns for people rather than them." In a bizarre accusation, he also condemned seals as "guilty" of eating too much fish.

He wrote to A-level student Madeleine Harrold:

I think it's mawkish, sentimental and unhelpful to adopt a Bambi attitude to animals. Your sympathy for dumb animals does you credit but save your concerns for people rather than them.

Badger cull would reduce "exorbitant" cost of shaving brushes

 He'll be running in the Newark by-election on 5 June. And you'll be running away.

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty Images
Show Hide image

I'm far from convinced by Cameron's plans for Syria

The Prime Minister has a plan for when the bombs drop. But what about after?

In the House of Commons today, the Prime Minister set out a powerful case for Britain to join air strikes against Isil in Syria.  Isil, he argued, poses a direct threat to Britain and its people, and Britain should not be in the business of “outsourcing our security to our allies”. And while he conceded that further airstrikes alone would not be sufficient to beat Isil, he made the case for an “Isil first” strategy – attacking Isil now, while continuing to do what we can diplomatically to help secure a lasting settlement for Syria in which Assad (eventually) plays no part.

I agreed with much of David Cameron’s analysis. And no-one should doubt either the murderous barbarism of Isil in the region, or the barbarism they foment and inspire in others across the world.  But at the end of his lengthy Q&A session with MPs, I remained unconvinced that UK involvement in airstrikes in Syria was the right option. Because the case for action has to be a case for action that has a chance of succeeding.  And David Cameron’s case contained neither a plan for winning the war, nor a plan for winning the peace.

The Prime Minister, along with military experts and analysts across the world, concedes that air strikes alone will not defeat Isil, and that (as in Iraq) ground forces are essential if we want to rid Syria of Isil. But what is the plan to assemble these ground forces so necessary for a successful mission?  David Cameron’s answer today was more a hope than a plan. He referred to “70,000 Syrian opposition fighters - principally the Free Syrian Army (FSA) – with whom we can co-ordinate attacks on Isil”.

But it is an illusion to think that these fighters can provide the ground forces needed to complement aerial bombardment of Isil.  Many commentators have begun to doubt whether the FSA continues to exist as a coherent operational entity over the past few months. Coralling the myriad rebel groups into a disciplined force capable of fighting and occupying Isil territory is a heroic ambition, not a plan. And previous efforts to mobilize the rebels against Isil have been utter failures. Last month the Americans abandoned a $500m programme to train and turn 5,400 rebel fighters into a disciplined force to fight Isil. They succeeded in training just 60 fighters. And there have been incidents of American-trained fighters giving some of their US-provided equipment to the Nusra Front, an affiliate of Al Qaeda.

Why has it proven so hard to co-opt rebel forces in the fight against Isil? Because most of the various rebel groups are fighting a war against Assad, not against Isil.  Syria’s civil war is gruesome and complex, but it is fundamentally a Civil War between Assad’s forces and a variety of opponents of Assad’s regime. It would be a mistake for Britain to base a case for military action against Isil on the hope that thousands of disparate rebel forces can be persuaded to change their enemy – especially when the evidence so far is that they won’t.

This is a plan for military action that, at present, looks highly unlikely to succeed.  But what of the plan for peace? David Cameron today argued for the separation of the immediate task at hand - to strike against Isil in Syria – from the longer-term ambition of achieving a settlement in Syria and removing Assad.  But for Isil to be beaten, the two cannot be separated. Because it is only by making progress in developing a credible and internationally-backed plan for a post-Assad Syria that we will persuade Syrian Sunnis that fighting Isil will not end up helping Assad win the Civil War.  If we want not only to rely on rebel Sunnis to provide ground troops against Isil, but also provide stable governance in Isil-occupied areas when the bombing stops, progress on a settlement to Syria’s Civil War is more not less urgent.  Without it, the reluctance of Syrian Sunnis to think that our fight is their fight will undermine the chances of military efforts to beat Isil and bring basic order to the regions they control. 

This points us towards doubling down on the progress that has already been made in Vienna: working with the USA, France, Syria’s neighbours and the Gulf states, as well as Russia and Iran. We need not just a combined approach to ending the conflict, but the prospect of a post-war Syria that offers a place for those whose cooperation we seek to defeat Isil. No doubt this will strike some as insufficient in the face of the horrors perpetrated by Isil. But I fear that if we want not just to take action against Isil but to defeat them and prevent their return, it offers a better chance of succeeding than David Cameron’s proposal today. 

Stewart Wood is a former Shadow Cabinet minister and adviser to Ed Miliband. He tweets as @StewartWood.