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 senior writer at the New Statesman.

Getty Images.
Show Hide image

Voters are turning against Brexit but the Lib Dems aren't benefiting

Labour's pro-Brexit stance is not preventing it from winning the support of Remainers. Will that change?

More than a year after the UK voted for Brexit, there has been little sign of buyer's remorse. The public, including around a third of Remainers, are largely of the view that the government should "get on with it".

But as real wages are squeezed (owing to the Brexit-linked inflationary spike) there are tentative signs that the mood is changing. In the event of a second referendum, an Opinium/Observer poll found, 47 per cent would vote Remain, compared to 44 per cent for Leave. Support for a repeat vote is also increasing. Forty one per cent of the public now favour a second referendum (with 48 per cent opposed), compared to 33 per cent last December. 

The Liberal Democrats have made halting Brexit their raison d'être. But as public opinion turns, there is no sign they are benefiting. Since the election, Vince Cable's party has yet to exceed single figures in the polls, scoring a lowly 6 per cent in the Opinium survey (down from 7.4 per cent at the election). 

What accounts for this disparity? After their near-extinction in 2015, the Lib Dems remain either toxic or irrelevant to many voters. Labour, by contrast, despite its pro-Brexit stance, has hoovered up Remainers (55 per cent back Jeremy Corbyn's party). 

In some cases, this reflects voters' other priorities. Remainers are prepared to support Labour on account of the party's stances on austerity, housing and education. Corbyn, meanwhile, is a eurosceptic whose internationalism and pro-migration reputation endear him to EU supporters. Other Remainers rewarded Labour MPs who voted against Article 50, rebelling against the leadership's stance. 

But the trend also partly reflects ignorance. By saying little on the subject of Brexit, Corbyn and Labour allowed Remainers to assume the best. Though there is little evidence that voters will abandon Corbyn over his EU stance, the potential exists.

For this reason, the proposal of a new party will continue to recur. By challenging Labour over Brexit, without the toxicity of Lib Dems, it would sharpen the choice before voters. Though it would not win an election, a new party could force Corbyn to soften his stance on Brexit or to offer a second referendum (mirroring Ukip's effect on the Conservatives).

The greatest problem for the project is that it lacks support where it counts: among MPs. For reasons of tribalism and strategy, there is no emergent "Gang of Four" ready to helm a new party. In the absence of a new convulsion, the UK may turn against Brexit without the anti-Brexiteers benefiting. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.