A UKIP candidate who sent a rape tweet to MP Jess Phillips is “not a bad person”, party leader Gerard Batten has said.

Appearing on The Andrew Marr Show yesterday, Batten said an online message sent by Carl Benjamin was “satire”.

Batten was asked about a tweet sent by Benjamin, who was last week announced as a European elections candidate in south-west England, to the prominent Labour MP in 2016.

Philipps, who said she received in excess of 600 rape threats in a night, posted: “People talking about raping me isn’t fun, but has become somewhat par for the course.”

Benjamin – a YouTuber better known by the alias Sargon of Akkad – replied: “I wouldn’t even rape you, Jess Phillips.”

Yesterday Batten – who last year took the helm at the party he helped found – said the candidate had been selected after an “exhaustive” process and, commenting directly on the tweet, said: “I think this was satire.”

Describing Benjamin as “a classical liberal”, Batten went on: “I don’t know the exact context of that and I certainly don’t condone any remarks like that but he is not a bad person as he’s being portrayed.

“He is a proponent of free speech. The context that he said it was satire against the people he was saying it about. He wasn’t actually making a literal statement.”

Following the broadcast, Phillips again took to Twitter to say: “My husband on seeing Batten (he had no idea who he was) saying people talking about my rape is satire said, ‘is this man satire?’”

Batten further defended his party’s association with English Defence League founder Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, who goes by the name Tommy Robinson. Batten, who appointed Yaxley-Lennon as a political advisor, said: “I take the position that Tommy Robinson is not far right.

“He doesn’t have far-right views. And he’s somebody who can give me some information and research that can be useful to me.”

Batten was also asked if he hates Islam, which he has previously referred to as a “death cult”. He responded: “I do not like the ideology, the literalist interpretation of Islam.

“I know lots of people in this country who do take a literal interpretation of Islam. I think that’s the worrying thing.”

He also defended his proposal that mosque building should be banned in the UK.

“What I have said in the past is that we should not allow planning permission for mosques until they allow planning permission in Islamic countries for churches, Hindu temples and other forms of religion.”

Announcing his withdrawal from the party in December, Scottish MEP David Coburn said Ukip had “changed direction” but that he had not, stating: “I did not run on an anti-Islam platform. Unfortunately this seems to be the direction that Ukip is taking.”

Now Nigel Farage says his new Brexit Party, of which Coburn is a member, “will absolutely be in Scotland” and may have European elections candidates lined up within days.

None have yet been selected but Farage – who launched his new party last week – told the Sunday Mail: “We are making fast progress and we will absolutely be in Scotland.

“By next week, we will have a clearer idea of what is happening regarding candidates.

“We have Scottish people coming through.

“The polling data already has been very strong. We are doing OK.”