One of the frontrunners to become the new Ukip leader has used his official campaign launch to defend Donald Trump and to call for a national referendum on banning women from wearing the niqab.

Speaking in front of a few dozen supporters at a pub in Westminster, Raheem Kassam also appeared to cast doubt on the veracity of women accusing the US Republican presidential candidate of sexual assault, and said he did not believe Trump had anti-Muslim views.

Kassam, 30, a former staffer for Nigel Farage who now runs the UK arm of the rightwing US news network Breitbart, is second favourite with bookmakers behind Paul Nuttall, an MEP and deputy leader, to be voted the next Ukip leader.

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