A UK Independence Party candidate has been suspended over suggestions that compulsory abortion should be considered for foetuses with Down’s syndrome or spina bifida.
The statements in Geoffrey Clarke’s online manifesto sparked outrage from a learning disability charity for including the termination of babies among potential NHS cost cutting measures.
If born, he said, they would become “a burden on the state as well as on the family”.
The party, enjoying a wave of publicity thanks to a dramatic boost in its opinion poll ratings, initially backed Mr Clarke and said he would make an “excellent councillor”.
Members held “a range of views and opinions” that were not party policy and that while it disagreed with much of the document, it was a “personal manifesto”, it said.
But in a later statement, a spokesman said the views of the would-be Kent county councillor, who is also contesting a Gravesham Borough Council by-election on Thursday, were “abhorrent”.
“Ukip reject the abhorrent views expressed in the personal manifesto of Mr Geoffrey Clark, a candidate in the local elections,” he said.
“The party was not aware of these views when it allowed him to stand under our name.
“We can confirm that Mr Clark has been formally suspended as a Ukip candidate and will not be standing for the party again.
“We would like to apologise to anyone who has suffered distress as a result of this matter.”
In his online manifesto, Mr Clarke said a review should “consider compulsory abortion when the foetus is detected as having Downs, spina bifida or similar syndrome which, if it is born, will render the child a burden on the state as well as on the family”.
It should also look at the future of medical treatment for people over the age of 80, which the 66-year-old says is “extraordinarily costly” to the NHS.
Learning disability charity Mencap said it was “disgusted and horrified” by the manifesto and questioned whether he was fit for office.
In a bid to defuse the controversy amid a storm of complaints on social media, Mr Clarke added a statement to his website to the effect that neither he nor the party endorsed any of the ideas which were simply suggestions for a review of public spending, he said.
He later apologised for any offence caused by views which he described as “honestly held and … intended to be thought-provoking”.
He told the This Is Kent news website: “Ukip’s policy is to reduce public expenditure. I am a layman, I do not know what should be cut. I wrote my website very, very quickly, it was so naive and foolish.
“You and I are a burden on the state, it’s not meant to be a cruel word. We are all a burden on the state,” he added.
“Some have been offended and I sincerely regret my choice of language. It was inappropriate language to express something that is genuinely sincere - we need to review all expenditure.”