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Media captionUKIP leader Gerard Batten says Tommy Robinson “doesn’t have far-right views”
UKIP leader Gerard Batten has accused his predecessor Nigel Farage of “smearing” the party, while defending his own links to Tommy Robinson.
He said Mr Farage, who launched the rival Brexit Party on Friday, wanted to “discredit” UKIP by claiming Mr Batten was condoning violence by working with the ex-English Defence League leader.
He said UKIP had always been, and would remain, a “non-racist” organisation.
While not a member, Mr Robinson was a “useful source of research”, he said.
Mr Farage quit UKIP earlier this year in protest at the direction of the Eurosceptic party, saying it had become obsessed under Mr Batten’s leadership with the threat Islam posed to UK society.
Launching his new party on Friday, Mr Farage said the UKIP leader’s decision to appoint Mr Robinson as an adviser on grooming gangs and prison conditions tarnished his former party and associated it with “extremism, violence, criminal records and thuggery”.
Mr Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, has been banned from Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for violating its policies on hate speech.
The political activist has served prison sentences for a number of offences but is regarded as a freedom of speech champion by his supporters.
He was jailed for contempt of court last year, a conviction that was later quashed on procedural grounds.
‘Information and research’
Mr Batten defended his association with Mr Robinson, saying it had not stopped the party from attracting 11,000 new members from a range of backgrounds since he became leader.
“Nigel has known me for 27 years. He knows exactly where I stand on things just as I know where he stands on things.
“He knows that this is a smear. This is a device he is using to try and discredit UKIP and enhance the chances of his own new party… What he is saying is a complete smear.”
Image copyright Reuters Image caption The UKIP leader said the party was attracting new members from all political backgrounds
Mr Farage, he suggested, had employed a former member of the National Front when he was leader on the basis he was no longer associated in any way with the fascist organisation.
“I have lots of people who advise me, some of which are not members of UKIP,” Mr Batten added.
“Tommy Robinson is not far-right… and does not have far-right views. He is someone who can give some information and research which is useful to me.
“We have always been a democratic,