Former Labour official Dan Hodges says UKIP leader Nigel Farage is not a “racist” or a “homophobe” but that his party is worse than the BNP.

The columnist has commented on this week’s UKIP controversy regarding its European election campaign posters and several party members who have made racist remarks.

Labour MP Mike Gapes said one of the posters – which implied 26 million Europeans were after British jobs – was “racist”.

Nigel Farage denied the claims, saying “I don’t think it can be deemed racist in any way.”

Writing on Telegraph.co.uk, Dan Hodges predicted the BNP, whose leader Nick Griffin is notorious for his extremely homophobic and racist views, would perform badly at next month’s European elections, due to the rise of UKIP.

Hodges said: “There’s one other reason I think Farage’s party are now worse than Griffin’s. At least Griffin believes what he says.

“He has been convicted of a racially motivated crime.

“He is leader of an avowedly prejudiced party. Whatever perverse processes led Griffin to his grotesque worldview, it is genuinely his worldview.

“Farage, in contrast, doesn’t believe any of this nonsense he and his party are spouting. He is not a racist. Or a homophobe. He is a live-and-let-live libertarian.

“He came into politics to take on EU bureaucrats, not jobbing Romanian plumbers. He doesn’t really get on a train and quake in fear because the person sitting next to him is speaking in a foreign tongue.”

Hodges added: “Farage is living a lie. A sad, grubby lie.”

On Tuesday, Labour’s former business secretary Lord Mandelson said UKIP “routinely insult gay people.”

During a recent appearance on Have I Got News for You, Nigel Farage attempted to make light of several anti-LGBT incidents by UKIP members from the past 12 months.

He laughed along with the audience as John Sullivan, a UKIP candidate who said last year that physical exercise “releases boys’ tensions and thus avoided homosexuality”, was branded a loony by host Stephen Mangan.

The UKIP leader was also embarrassed by David Silvester, the former UKIP councillor who blamed floods on same-sex marriage.

Earlier this month, a UKIP chairman defended a prospective councillor in Portsmouth who described anal sex as “sodomy”, and said he was against “aggressive homosexuals” who pretend they are “normal”.