UKIP leader storms out of interview over defence of 'rape tweet' candidate

PUBLISHED: 11:45 18 April 2019 | UPDATED: 11:52 18 April 2019

Gerard Batten in the Sky News interview. Photograph: Sky.

Gerard Batten in the Sky News interview. Photograph: Sky.

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UKIP leader Gerard Batten appeared unhappy with the line of questioning ahead of an event preparing the party for the next set of elections.

Faced with competition from Nigel Farage's party at the European elections, and a whole host of controversy facing the party in local elections, it appears the latest publicity event has been clouded before it even started.

Batten was speaking to Kate McCann from Sky News when he was asked to qualify his comments in which he claimed a tweet from a candidate in which he joked about rape was “satire”.

The scrutiny from the reporter led to Batten walking out as the pressure got to the leader.

He said: “Go and ask Carl Benjamin. This is a three year old tweet that he did in the context of some Twitter troll.”

But McCann pointed out this was no longer just about the tweet, but Batten's judgement by allowing Benjamin to continue as a candidate.

“He has made an ill-considered remark. If you are going to stop people taking part in public life or anything else because of a stupid ill-considered remark from several years before then I don't think you would have anyone in parliament or anywhere else in public life because we all do things we regret.”

He added: “I'm not going to stop having a valuable candidate on the list, someone who can get us access to social media and thousands more people that we can't talk to that we can't do through social media, where less and less people are listening and taking notice of it. So we are seeking other ways to the public.”

Angered by a third question on the matter, Batten refused to answer further questions and stormed out of the room.

At the event he claimed his party was the “true” party of Brexit as he sought to counter the threat posed by Nigel Farage.

Batten said the referendum result had been “cynically betrayed by the political class” and the May 23 election would be a “re-run of the referendum”.

He argued for “unilateral and unconditional withdrawal” from the EU “no ifs, no buts”.

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