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.

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Let's turn RBS into a bank for the public interest

A tarnished symbol of global finance could be remade as a network of local banks. 

The Royal Bank of Scotland has now been losing money for nine consecutive years. Today’s announcement of a further £7bn yearly loss at the publicly-owned bank is just the latest evidence that RBS is essentially unsellable. The difference this time is that the Government seems finally to have accepted that fact.

Up until now, the government had been reluctant to intervene in the running of the business, instead insisting that it will be sold back to the private sector when the time is right. But these losses come just a week after the government announced that it is abandoning plans to sell Williams & Glynn – an RBS subsidiary which has over 300 branches and £22bn of customer deposits.

After a series of expensive delays and a lack of buyer interest, the government now plans to retain Williams & Glynn within the RBS group and instead attempt to boost competition in the business lending market by granting smaller "challenger banks" access to RBS’s branch infrastructure. It also plans to provide funding to encourage small businesses to switch their accounts away from RBS.

As a major public asset, RBS should be used to help achieve wider objectives. Improving how the banking sector serves small businesses should be the top priority, and it is good to see the government start to move in this direction. But to make the most of RBS, they should be going much further.

The public stake in RBS gives us a unique opportunity to create new banking institutions that will genuinely put the interests of the UK’s small businesses first. The New Economics Foundation has proposed turning RBS into a network of local banks with a public interest mandate to serve their local area, lend to small businesses and provide universal access to banking services. If the government is serious about rebalancing the economy and meeting the needs of those who feel left behind, this is the path they should take with RBS.

Small and medium sized enterprises are the lifeblood of the UK economy, and they depend on banking services to fund investment and provide a safe place to store money. For centuries a healthy relationship between businesses and banks has been a cornerstone of UK prosperity.

However, in recent decades this relationship has broken down. Small businesses have repeatedly fallen victim to exploitative practice by the big banks, including the the mis-selling of loans and instances of deliberate asset stripping. Affected business owners have not only lost their livelihoods due to the stress of their treatment at the hands of these banks, but have also experienced family break-ups and deteriorating physical and mental health. Others have been made homeless or bankrupt.

Meanwhile, many businesses struggle to get access to the finance they need to grow and expand. Small firms have always had trouble accessing finance, but in recent decades this problem has intensified as the UK banking sector has come to be dominated by a handful of large, universal, shareholder-owned banks.

Without a focus on specific geographical areas or social objectives, these banks choose to lend to the most profitable activities, and lending to local businesses tends to be less profitable than other activities such as mortgage lending and lending to other financial institutions.

The result is that since the mid-1980s the share of lending going to non-financial businesses has been falling rapidly. Today, lending to small and medium sized businesses accounts for just 4 per cent of bank lending.

Of the relatively small amount of business lending that does occur in the UK, most is heavily concentrated in London and surrounding areas. The UK’s homogenous and highly concentrated banking sector is therefore hampering economic development, starving communities of investment and making regional imbalances worse.

The government’s plans to encourage business customers to switch away from RBS to another bank will not do much to solve this problem. With the market dominated by a small number of large shareholder-owned banks who all behave in similar ways (and who have been hit by repeated scandals), businesses do not have any real choice.

If the government were to go further and turn RBS into a network of local banks, it would be a vital first step in regenerating disenfranchised communities, rebalancing the UK’s economy and staving off any economic downturn that may be on the horizon. Evidence shows that geographically limited stakeholder banks direct a much greater proportion of their capital towards lending in the real economy. By only investing in their local area, these banks help create and retain wealth regionally rather than making existing geographic imbalances worce.

Big, deep challenges require big, deep solutions. It’s time for the government to make banking work for small businesses once again.

Laurie Macfarlane is an economist at the New Economics Foundation