It is right that anti-Islam candidate Anne Marie Waters is allowed to stand for the leadership of UKIP, the party’s deputy leader has said.
Ms Waters is the founder of the Sharia Watch pressure group and has previously called Islam “evil”.
But current deputy Peter Whittle, who is also contesting to be leader, said she should not be stopped from standing as she had passed the vetting process.
“If you get through that then you should be allowed to stand,” he said.
He added: “We’re going to have obviously what will be a very interesting contest.”
Former leader Nigel Farage has warned that UKIP will be “finished” if it becomes an anti-Islam party.
Mr Whittle and Ms Waters are among 11 candidates vying to be leader after Paul Nuttall – who has previously said Ms Waters’ views made him “uncomfortable” – stood down after UKIP’s poor performance in June’s general election.
The 11 candidates are (in alphabetical order):
- David Allen
- Henry Bolton
- David Coburn
- Jane Collins
- David Kurten
- Marion Mason
- Aidan Powlesland
- John Rees-Evans
- Ben Walker
- Anne Marie Waters
- Peter Whittle
Ms Waters believes her anti-Islam message, including a proposed ban on the burka, the closure of all sharia councils and a temporary freeze on all immigration, will strike a chord with many voters.
Mr Whittle told the Today programme that he was concerned by the number of Sharia courts in the UK.
Sharia councils are tribunals that seek to apply Islamic laws to settle disputes. It is unclear how many exist in the UK.
“There is one law in this country and that is British law,” he told Radio 4’s Today programme.
He denied it was an anti-Islamic viewpoint.
He added that he was for a “cohesive multi-ethnic society” which is “united under British values and British laws”.
He said multiculturalism had led to “a more fragmented society”.
Going forward, he said the role of UKIP was “ensuring Brexit”.
He told the Today programme the political establishment is “chipping away at the whole idea of Brexit”.
He said his party must continue to look at the issues in British society which other parties “are cowards about”.
“UKIP has always been a party that talks about issues that other people do not like to talk about,” he said.
Voting papers will be sent to party members over the next few weeks and the new leader will be announced at the party’s annual conference in Torquay on the 29 and 30 September.