The Conservative MEP who said that homophobia is “merely a propaganda device” has been forced to defend his comments.

Writing on his blog earlier this month, Roger Helmer, Conservative MEP for the East Midlands, said: “‘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.”

He added that he did not believe in gay marriage, yet assured his readers he was “liberal and tolerant”.

Speaking to the Chronicle & Echo yesterday, Helmer said the publicity over his remarks had been designed to embarrass the Tories in Europe.

He told the newspaper: “I was not claiming that there is no discrimination, and that homosexuals do not suffer violence and prejudice from people because sadly, we all know that is not the case.

“What I was saying was that the word homophobia has no meaning. I have never met anyone with an irrational fear of homosexuals, it is just a propagandist word created by the militant gay rights lobby.”

On the blog, titled Straight Talking, Helmer also defended Polish MEP Michal Kaminksi, who has been accused of homophobia and anti-semitism.

In a television interview in 2000, Kaminski, a Polish Law and Justice Party MEP, was heard to call gay people a derogatory term that can be translated as “fags” or “queers”.

Last month, a Tory MEP was expelled from the Conservatives’ grouping in the European Parliament for standing against Kaminski, the group’s official vice-president candidate.

Edward McMillan-Scott, the longest-standing Conservative MEP, told PinkNews.co.uk that the party’s record on gay rights was “part of the picture” of why he defied orders.