UKIP leader Nigel Farage has suggested that it’s OK to be homophobic if a person is aged 70 or older.

Mr Farage made the remarks yesterday on Newsnight in an interview with Jeremy Paxman.

The UKIP leader was defending the party’s candidate for the Newark by-election MEP Roger Helmer.

The 70-year-old recently said the public should be able to freely and openly dislike gay people, as they would different types of tea.

In 2000, while a Conservative MEP, Mr Helmer said: “The homosexual lobby wants to be accepted as a ‘valid alternative lifestyle’.

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

Earlier this month, Mr Farage defended Mr Helmer and claimed most over 70s were “uncomfortable” about homosexuality.

Jeremy Paxman put it to Mr Farage: “You’ve got open homophobes in the party haven’t you?”

Farage replied: “Can you name me a party that hasn’t got people … particularly over the age of 70 who were brought up at a time when they were taught at school this was wrong.”

He added: “Roger Helmer is 70, alright …” Paxman interrupted: “That’s an excuse?”

Farage replied: “Just think about this. He was brought up in a traditional biblical upbringing. He lived as a young man in a country where homosexual behaviour was an imprisonable offence.

“So this generation were taught to believe: this was wrong. And I think for many people of that age and older they still find [homosexuality] difficult. Roger has said he’s now relaxed about it and his views have moved on.

“You know social attitudes do change and we shouldn’t demonise people”.

Paxman then asked: “Would it be OK to be a racist at 70?”

The UKIP leader said: “Er, no, and actually what’s interesting is that you will find very few of those.

“If you were to go to France, or Germany, or elsewhere, right across Europe, you would find racist attitudes. This country [Britain] has been the most relaxed in the western world when it comes to different cultures [and] different backgrounds”.

Paxman then quoted Roger Helmer’s previous comments that people find homosexuality “viscerally repulsive” and asked Nigel Farage if he found that acceptable.

Farage replied: “No, and he wrote that 12 years ago when he was a Conservative. Isn’t it funny, when he was a Conservative you didn’t criticise him did you? Now that he’s UKIP you do.”

Paxman pointed out that Mr Helmer made the comments long before he was 70.

Farage conceded: “Well he was a younger man but he was still born in the same year”.