The upstart UK Independence Party (Ukip) has suspended a local councillor who blamed recent flooding across Britain on the government's decision to legalise gay marriage.
David Silvester, a devout Christian who defected from Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative party in protest at last year's move to allow same-sex marriage, claimed that Britain had been "beset by storms" in recent weeks because the new law had angered God. In a letter to his local newspaper in Henley-on-Thames, west of London, Silvester wrote: "It is [Cameron's] fault that large swathes of the nation have been afflicted by storms and floods."
Ukip initially supported Silvester's right to express his opinions, but on Sunday the anti-EU party used emergency powers to suspend him.
"We cannot have any individual using the Ukip banner to promote their controversial personal beliefs which are not shared by the party," said Roger Bird, the party's chairman in southeast England.
He added that Silvester had defied party orders not to give any more interviews, telling BBC radio on Sunday that homosexuality was a disease that could be "healed".
Ukip has struggled to shrug off a reputation for attracting extremists. Cameron once derided them as a group of "fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists".
But the Conservatives are increasingly nervous about the threat posed by the party, whose anti-EU and anti-immigration messages have steadily gained support among the public in recent years.
Votes for Ukip cost the Conservatives hundreds of seats at local council elections last May and the smaller party is expected to do well in this May's European Parliament elections.
Silvester's suspension came as Ukip leader Nigel Farage announced a purge of "extremist, nasty or barmy" views from the party ahead of the polls.
Farage told The Sun on Sunday newspaper that five candidates for the upcoming elections were being forced not to stand because they could potentially embarrass the party.