UKIP MEP Roger Helmer, who continues to fend off criticism over his views on homosexuality is likely to come second in Thursday’s by-election, a poll by Lord Ashcroft suggests.
The Conservative peer released the poll on Monday evening and said: “The Conservatives are on course to hold onto Newark in the by-election on Thursday, according to a poll I have conducted in the constituency. I found the Tories on 42%, with UKIP second on 27% and Labour third on 20%.”
Lord Ashcroft suggested that support for Mr Helmer had been influenced by disapproval with the main three Westminster parties. He said: “Seven in ten of those planning to vote for Roger Helmer on Thursday say they are making a general protest to show they are unhappy with all the parties; only 16% of them say this was not a factor.”
Lord Ashcroft added: “More than six in ten UKIP supporters say they were sending a message that they were unhappy with their usual party – more than twice the proportion of Lib Dem voters (and three times the proportion of Labour voters) saying the same.”
Mr Helmer said: “Let’s be clear: I have never said that homosexuality is ‘an illness’, or that it can be ‘cured’.
“I have never asserted that homosexuals can be ‘turned’. I have never advocated ‘gay cures’.
“In particular I would vehemently oppose any move to offer ‘gay cures’ on the NHS.
“No treatment should be offered on the NHS unless it is of proven clinical efficacy and demonstrable cost-effectiveness.
“I am not aware of any proposal to offer ‘gay cures’ on the NHS – this appears to be a figment of your imagination. But if there were any such proposal, I should oppose it robustly.
“Your suggestion that I ‘called for gay cures on the NHS’ is a downright and preposterous lie, and a deliberate attempt to damage my reputation.”
UKIP leader Nigel Farage attempted to defend Mr Helmer from accusations of homophobia, claiming that “most” over-70s feel uncomfortable about gays.