The UKIP candidate for the Newark by-election, Roger Helmer, insists he is not homophobic and has blamed his “traditional” upbringing for his infamous remarks.

The MEP’s candidacy to become an MP was announced by the party on Tuesday evening.

In an interview with The Times, Mr Helmer, who left the Tories two years ago, said his views have changed.

He said: “I was raised in a very traditional home and I guess I grew up with those attitudes, but hell we are now in the 21st century.

“My position is exactly the same as the party’s position: that we are a broadly libertarian party and what two consenting adults, or indeed more than two consenting adults, choose to do together is none of my business, none of the party’s business and as far as we’re concerned, they’re free to get on with it.”

He said UKIP were right to fight same-sex marriage but when asked if he would attend a gay wedding he said he would.

“I’m not the anti-gay MEP,” he continued. “I am the MEP who is concerned about the major issues that affect this country today, who made a couple of remarks many years ago, which have been scraped off the bottom of the barrel and they are not the issue on which we are interested.

“The people of Newark are interested in issues that affect them today – they’re interested in immigration and energy prices and so on.”

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.”

Asked on Tuesday if he stood by his comments, he replied: “Some people dislike it and this is a fact. Some people do all sorts of things, that doesn’t mean I commend them.”