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

Photo: Getty
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Who will win in Stoke-on-Trent?

Labour are the favourites, but they could fall victim to a shock in the Midlands constituency.  

The resignation of Tristram Hunt as MP for Stoke-on-Central has triggered a by-election in the safe Labour seat of Stoke on Trent Central. That had Westminster speculating about the possibility of a victory for Ukip, which only intensified once Paul Nuttall, the party’s leader, was installed as the candidate.

If Nuttall’s message that the Labour Party has lost touch with its small-town and post-industrial heartlands is going to pay dividends at the ballot box, there can hardly be a better set of circumstances than this: the sitting MP has quit to take up a well-paid job in London, and although  the overwhelming majority of Labour MPs voted to block Brexit, the well-advertised divisions in that party over the vote should help Ukip.

But Labour started with a solid lead – it is always more useful to talk about percentages, not raw vote totals – of 16 points in 2015, with the two parties of the right effectively tied in second and third place. Just 33 votes separated Ukip in second from the third-placed Conservatives.

There was a possible – but narrow – path to victory for Ukip that involved swallowing up the Conservative vote, while Labour shed votes in three directions: to the Liberal Democrats, to Ukip, and to abstention.

But as I wrote at the start of the contest, Ukip were, in my view, overwritten in their chances of winning the seat. We talk a lot about Labour’s problem appealing to “aspirational” voters in Westminster, but less covered, and equally important, is Ukip’s aspiration problem.

For some people, a vote for Ukip is effectively a declaration that you live in a dump. You can have an interesting debate about whether it was particularly sympathetic of Ken Clarke to brand that party’s voters as “elderly male people who have had disappointing lives”, but that view is not just confined to pro-European Conservatives. A great number of people, in Stoke and elsewhere, who are sympathetic to Ukip’s positions on immigration, international development and the European Union also think that voting Ukip is for losers.

That always made making inroads into the Conservative vote harder than it looks. At the risk of looking very, very foolish in six days time, I found it difficult to imagine why Tory voters in Hanley would take the risk of voting Ukip. As I wrote when Nuttall announced his candidacy, the Conservatives were, in my view, a bigger threat to Labour than Ukip.

Under Theresa May, almost every move the party has made has been designed around making inroads into the Ukip vote and that part of the Labour vote that is sympathetic to Ukip. If the polls are to be believed, she’s succeeding nationally, though even on current polling, the Conservatives wouldn’t have enough to take Stoke on Trent Central.

Now Theresa May has made a visit to the constituency. Well, seeing as the government has a comfortable majority in the House of Commons, it’s not as if the Prime Minister needs to find time to visit the seat, particularly when there is another, easier battle down the road in the shape of the West Midlands mayoral election.

But one thing is certain: the Conservatives wouldn’t be sending May down if they thought that they were going to do worse than they did in 2015.

Parties can be wrong of course. The Conservatives knew that they had found a vulnerable spot in the last election as far as a Labour deal with the SNP was concerned. They thought that vulnerable spot was worth 15 to 20 seats. They gained 27 from the Liberal Democrats and a further eight from Labour.  Labour knew they would underperform public expectations and thought they’d end up with around 260 to 280 seats. They ended up with 232.

Nevertheless, Theresa May wouldn’t be coming down to Stoke if CCHQ thought that four days later, her party was going to finish fourth. And if the Conservatives don’t collapse, anyone betting on Ukip is liable to lose their shirt. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.