UKIP has announced that MEP Roger Helmer, who just last week was at the centre of a homophobia row, will contest the Newark parliamentary by-election.

The selection comes after UKIP leader Nigel Farage decided not to throw his hat into the ring for the battle in the Nottinghamshire seat to replace former Tory Patrick Mercer.

He quit Parliament last month days before the publication of a scathing standards report.

Mr Helmer is a controversial choice.

Last week he found himself at war with The Sun after the paper accused him of being a “bigot” over his views on homosexuality.

“Different people may have different tastes,” he said. “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.”

The paper mentioned that Mr Helmer had said it was okay for people to find homosexuality “distasteful if not viscerally repugnant”.

It quoted his remarks made in 2000 while a Conservative MEP – in a pamphlet entitled ‘Straight Talking on Europe’.

He said: “The homosexual lobby wants to be accepted as a ‘valid alternative lifestyle’.

“I will argue homosexual behaviour is abnormal and undesirable.”

In a post on his blog in 2009, he wrote: “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.

“[The word] 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.”

Speaking after being put forward for the seat, Mr Helmer said: “I am both proud and humbled to have been selected by the constituency association in Newark to represent the UKIP cause in this historic town in what could well prove to be an historic by-election.

“It would be a huge honour to be elected to serve as Newark’s MP and I will be giving my all over the next few weeks to achieve that outcome.”