Ex-Deputy Mayor of London: I will stand up for gay rights in UKIP

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Former Deputy Mayor of London Richard Barnes has defended joining UKIP, telling PinkNews that he will continue to fight for equality.

The gay ex-Tory, who served as Deputy Mayor between 2008 and 2012, today announced that he had joined Nigel Farage’s party.

He blamed HS2, which he claims is “calving up” his north-west London village of Harefield, Heathrow expansion and David Cameron’s position on Europe as his main reasons.

Mr Barnes dismissed suggestions that UKIP had a problem with anti-gay members.

“Yeah and a lot of them are ex-Conservatives aren’t they?” he told PinkNews.co.uk.

“I haven’t changed my views. I have fought for equality throughout my political life, I am quite happy to go into the lion’s den to fight for that.”

Mr Barnes continued: “The hardest debate I ever had over equal marriage was at a Conservative AGM when someone, who had been married four times, was preaching about the sanctity of marriage. He was saying utter right-wing bilge.”

Opposition to same-sex marriage was not an issue that “fits solely within UKIP,” Mr Barnes added.

“But come on, that’s a challenge to all of us to campaign for it,” Mr Barnes told PinkNews.co.uk. “I am quite happy to stand to argue in meetings with UKIP about equalities, across the board equalities.

When asked if he would be urging UKIP leader Nigel Farage to support equal marriage, Mr Barnes replied: “Well it’s a bit late now as it’s already on the statute book and I have certainly attended more than one wedding.”

Mr Farage remains opposed to same-sex marriage, claiming religious opponents risk prosecution by the European Court of Human Rights.

Asked if he would consider running for office as a UKIP member, Mr Barnes replied: “I have only just joined. I’m a Londoner, the next set of local elections in London are four years’ time, so that’s a long way off, I certainly won’t be standing as a parliamentary candidate.”

In May, Mr Barnes unsuccessfully stood as an independent councillor.

Explaining the decision, he told PinkNews.co.uk: “I had been deselected by the leader of the Conservative group in Hillingdon, for very personal reasons, and I’d rather be rejected by the electorate than one individual.”

Mr Barnes was left red-faced last September after a series of naked images were uploaded to his Facebook profile.

The politician claimed he had been a victim of social media hacking.