UKIP politician Roger Helmer, who thinks homosexuality is “not a valid lifestyle worthy of equal respect”, has been re-elected as an MEP.

Helmer, who has previously said the public should be able to openly dislike gay people, was overwhelmingly re-elected to the European Parliament in the East Midlands.

UKIP received 32% of the vote in the East Midlands, compared to 25.9% for the Conservatives, and 24.9% for the Labour party, securing a seat for Helmer, and winning a seat for UKIP candidate Margot Parker.

UKIP have made large gains in the European elections, and are projected to come first across the UK as a whole, with around 30% of the vote.

Helmer, who is also running for Parliament in two weeks in the Newark by-election, claimed homosexuality is not a lifestyle worthy of respect, and claimed that the media are “obsessed” with sexuality.

UKIP leader Nigel Farage had attempted to defend Helmer from accusations of homophobia, claiming that “most” over-70s feel uncomfortable about gays.

He said: “Roger Helmer is fighting this by-election for us; he’s somebody of 70 years of age who grew up with a strong Christian Bible background; he grew up in an age when homosexuality was actually imprisonable, and he had a certain set of views which he maintained for many years which he now says he accepts the world’s moved on and he’s relaxed about.

“As I say, when Roger grew up and, indeed, when he was an adult, homosexuality was illegal in this country, and he held that view for some period of time.

“And actually, if we asked the 70s and over in this country how they felt about it, most of them still feel uncomfortable.”

Helmer also previously written that he “cannot understand” why people are opposed to far-right policy of voluntary repatriation – where people who entered the UK legally are given financial incentives to leave.