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UKIP candidate Janice Atkinson caught giving anti-racism protesters a one-fingered salute in Ashford town centre

One of UKIP's most senior members has been photographed giving an offensive hand gesture to protesters in Kent this weekend.

Janice Atkinson, who is the party's second-choice European candidate after leader Nigel Farage, was pictured giving a one-fingered salute to members of the People's Assembly in Ashford.

Tonight Ms Atkinson, speaking at UKIP's rally in Margate, said she 'was not proud' of the gesture, adding she had been upset at comments made by protesters about her party's members.

Janice Atkinson pictured by protesters in Ashford
Janice Atkinson pictured by protesters in Ashford

She added: "I was angry that some of our supporters including pensioners were being called racist bigots and fascists. I got angry but I don't regret it.'

Green Party member Maria Pizzey, who has posted the rude gesture on her Facebook page, said she and a small group of activists held a peaceful protest near Ms Atkinson who was supporting UKIP's Norman Taylor in Ashford town centre.

Ms Pizzey claims Ms Atkinson, who switched from the Conservative party to stand for UKIP, told the group to 'f-off' when they stood with placards accusing UKIP of racist policies.

Ms Pizzey said: "She made personal comments about my body size and when I told her I would quote her widely she said "I don't care where you f***ing post this, just f**k off!"

Ukip leader Nigel Farage
Ukip leader Nigel Farage

Ms Atkinson is second choice on UKIP's selected candidate list behind leader Nigel Farage. It means she will be elected if UKIP wins its predicted four or five seats in the South East in next Thursday's election.

Stuart Jeffrey, chairman of Kent Green Party and prospective parliamentary candidate for Maidstone and the Weald, posted: "UKIP's PR officer discussing policy with Ashford Greens. Why would anyone consider voting for her?"

Ms Atkinson is no stranger to courting criticism.

Only last week she claimed parts of Kent were becoming 'no-go' zones because of Eastern European immigrants.

She made the remark after police raids across the county into sexual exploitation gangs but was slapped down by the Liberal Democrats who said such comments could provoke vigilante attacks.

Asked if she considered her remarks to be alarmist, she said: “People have come to me with tales of intimidation and I try to persuade them to go public but they feel they can’t. It worries me.”

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