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Ukip hopeful Bill Etheridge rounds on his critics over Viagra photos

By David Young, PA

Published 17/08/2016

A Ukip leadership candidate has branded as "beneath contempt" the party colleagues he accused of ridiculing him after pictures of his prescribed Viagra tablets were posted online.

Bill Etheridge told a Northern Ireland audience he was not afraid to challenge the stigma around erectile dysfunction and related mental health problems.

The West Midlands MEP contacted the police after the images of his medication were apparently posted on social media by a former girlfriend.

Addressing the furore as he took part in a leadership hustings event in Co Antrim, Mr Etheridge said: "It's been a difficult 24 hours for me.

"The media has descended on me due to painful, unfair and personal attacks by a woman I once loved. It's been difficult, but I'm not afraid."

The picture of the tablets was reportedly accompanied by a tweet questioning Mr Etheridge's suitability for the top job. The online post has since been deleted.

Mr Etheridge hit out at "spiteful" elements in the party's leadership race to replace Nigel Farage for allegedly seeking to capitalise on the situation.

"I've been ridiculed and criticised by people inside and outside my party," he told the audience of around 25 party members in a hotel at Belfast International Airport.

"Well, let's face one issue head on - sexual and mental issues are important."

He went on to outline statistics illustrating the extent to which men's sexual health problems impacted on couples across the world.

Noting that only a third of men with problems sought help, he added: "It's because of the stigma, ladies and gentlemen - it's a difficult thing to face."

Mr Etheridge was one of three of the five Ukip leadership candidates who took part in the hustings. Mr Etheridge, Lisa Duffy and Philip Broughton all made pitches to the region's party faithful before taking part in a question and answer session.

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