Ukip’s leader Gerard Batten has thrown his support behind a candidate from rival party Change UK who was criticised by Muslim community groups for her views about Islam.

Nora Mulready’s selection for the European Parliament elections was condemned as a “joke” by racism reporting service Tell MAMA and criticised by the Muslim Council of Britain.

But the remain-supporting centrist party has found an unlikely ally in arch-Brexiteer Mr Batten – who himself has been criticised for an alleged “fixation” with Islam.

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The Ukip leader expressed hope that the presence of views like Ms Mulready’s in a remain-supporting party would make his own politics more acceptable in the mainstream. 

“Change UK MEP candidate is apparently someone ‘with the guts to say things as they are’. That can get you called names these says,” Mr Batten said, sharing a link to an article about the row.

He added: “Maybe ‘saying things as they are’ will become more acceptable if Remainers do it. It could even catch on.”

Change UK has stood by their candidate and claims she is subject to a “smear campaign”. The party has already seen two candidates resign over racially-charged tweets since its European elections launch on Tuesday. One had suggested he would support Brexit if it stopped "Romaining pickpockets", while the other had made a series of historic offensive tweets, including one referring to a "crazy black wh***".

Ms Mulready was accused by the Muslim Council of Britain of being “all too ready in othering people, in this case, conflating Islam with terrorism”.

Comments had emerged in which she appeared to conflate Islam with terrorism, questioned Pakistani immigration, and suggested the concerns of far-right leader Tommy Robinson should be acknowledged.

Ukip leader Mr Batten himself faced a backlash last year after he appointed Mr Robinson, former face of the English Defence League, as an advisor. 

That row resulted in Nigel Farage quitting the party, with the former leader accusing the MEP of an “obsession” with Robinson and a “fixation” with Islam.

“I believe he is entirely unsuitable to be involved in any political party," Mr Farage wrote of Robinson. “The fact is that his entourage includes violent criminals and ex-BNP members.”

Writing in The Independent, Ms Mulready defended her record: “Ever since the announcement yesterday of my candidacy as a London MEP for Change UK – The Independent Group, I have been subjected to an online campaign of false allegations of racism, including an accusation by the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) that I am Islamophobic,” she said in a comment piece.

“I have never – not once – expressed anti-Muslim hatred or bigotry. I have always been clear that any criticisms I may make are about Islamism, and conservative Islamic cultures or beliefs; never Muslims. 

“I am horrified, appalled and deeply upset to have been targeted by what appears to be an active campaign of smears and lies from hard-left activists and the MCB.”

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