A PROSPECTIVE parliamentary candidate claims he has been forced to quit in a row over his support for same-sex marriage.
Former councillor Richard Lowe, who works in Flintshire, had been selected to stand as the UK Independence Party candidate for Chester in the next general election.
Mr Lowe said he met Chester UKIP branch members last week after his letter supporting same-sex marriage was published in the Leader’s sister paper the Standard and says he has been forced to resign because his public support for gay marriage and pro-immigration stance clashes with UKIP policy.
He was also criticised for backing calls for drugs to be decriminalised and because he did not fully support the campaign for the UK to leave the European Union.
Mr Lowe has now quit the party and believes Chester branch members were put under pressure by senior UKIP figures.
He said: “I don’t wish any ill feeling to the branch but I think nationally the party has got it completely wrong because they are telling people what to think.
“I have been told it was suggested the branch give me an ultimatum because some people were not happy with my views.
“Some of the issues they had a problem with could be tolerated but when my support for gay marriage was published they felt I had to go.
“Ultimately I have got to stand up for my political beliefs.”
Mr Lowe, now 28, was elected to Cheshire West and Chester Council in 2008 when he was a member of the Conservative Party.
He was suspended from the party for four months in 2009 for making an inappropriate comment about missing Madeleine McCann on Facebook.
Mr Lowe switched to UKIP in 2011 but failed to gain re-election later that year.
In September, UKIP announced he had been chosen to challenge Chester’s Conservative MP Stephen Mosley but those plans are now in tatters.
Mr Lowe has not ruled out standing as an independent candidate in the future.
“Part of me is considering complete political apathy and just walking away but to be honest leaving has given me more fire in my belly,” he said.
“I have been asked about rejoining the Conservative Party or joining the Green Party but there is no intention of me joining any other party right now.
“A few people have asked me to stand as an independent and right now I don't know but you can never say never.”
Mr Lowe’s resignation came less than 48 hours after the chairman of UKIP’s youth organisation said he was sacked for his views on same-sex marriage.
Mr Lowe said he believed UKIP was guilty of double standards, particularly as his views on decriminalising drugs are similar to those of party leader Nigel Farage.
“They are trying to appeal to the Tory old guard while at the same time turning their back on their own excellent youth members who might have more liberal views,” he said.
“I think making same-sex marriage a party political issue to beat the Conservatives with is a mistake. My views have not been particularly secret but you live and learn in politics.
“The Chester branch has been great to me and gave me quite a lot of freedom but ultimately our views were not compatible.
“I would rather they had a candidate they felt they could campaign for.
”UKIP has openly criticised the government’s plans for same-sex marriage, although the party has said it respects the rights of gay people to have civil partnerships.
Party leader Mr Farage has described the proposals as “an affront to millions of people” and hopes to attract Conservative votes in next year’s European elections.
UKIP Chester branch chairman Peter Lowe, who is no relation, said: “There were a number of issues we felt had been raised by Richard that were not in line with UKIP policy.
“We felt he was sending out confused messages as to what UKIP was standing for and we couldn’t continue to support his candidature while this was going on.
“Richard’s views on same-sex marriage came into the equation but that was not the sole reason. He felt he did not enjoy our confidence and we accepted his resignation.
“Richard is an outstanding politician and it is a loss to us but there are no hard feelings and we both move on and go our separate ways.”
See full story in the Chester Leader