UK Politics

Joey Barton apologises for 'ugly girl' UKIP comments

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Media captionJoey Barton had a heated exchange with UKIP MEP Louise Bours

Footballer Joey Barton has apologised after describing UKIP as the best of "four really ugly girls".

The QPR midfielder made the comment during a heated exchange with Louise Bours, one of UKIP's newly elected MEPs, on the BBC's Question Time.

Ms Bours said the comments showed the footballer had "brains in his feet".

Mr Barton, who had questioned the legitimacy of UKIP's victory, said he could have chosen a better analogy and blamed nerves.

He was one of five panellists on the programme, which was filmed at Heathrow Airport's new Terminal 2 building. He was introduced by host David Dimbleby as footballer's "philosopher king".

'Ignorance'

The panellists, who also included journalist Piers Morgan, Conservative minister David Willetts and Labour's Margaret Curran, were asked whether UKIP could reproduce its performance in the recent European polls at next year's general election.

The footballer said last week's outcome - when UKIP won 27% of the overall vote - was far from a ringing endorsement of the party, since only 34% of the eligible electorate had voted.

Describing UKIP as the "best of a bad bunch", he added: "So if I am somewhere and there were four really ugly girls, I'm thinking, 'Well, she's not the worst', because that is all you are, that is all you are to us."

Image caption Ms Bours accused opponents of misrepresenting UKIP's policies

Ms Bours, a former actress in West End musicals who is now an MEP for the North West of England, accused Mr Barton of "ignorance" and having his "brains in his feet".

An audience member later confronted him about his remark. saying: "I was with you in some of the things you said (but) I think the analogy you made of four ugly girls, that's going to be on Twitter tonight and tomorrow, you'll be buried for it."

Mr Barton replied: "I do apologise - I couldn't think of a better one, this is the first time I have ever done it.

"As Louise rightly pointed out my brains are in my feet, which is an equally offensive statement. Maybe I was a little bit nervous, I apologise."

'Ill-conceived'

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Image caption Barton's QPR won promotion to the Premier League last weekend

Later, the footballer wrote on his blog that he had been more nervous before his appearance than he had been when "standing in the tunnel at Wembley for the play-off final".

He added: "Those 'pre-match nerves' probably account for me getting off to a jittery start, and making that comment about four ugly girls.

"I've apologised for that and people have said what they've got to say.

"What I was trying to get at was that if the voting public are given a choice of four unappealing possibilities, there is no great victory in being the least unappealing. That is what UKIP are to me."

The footballer also took to Twitter, telling Mr Morgan: "I may have upset one or two women with an ill-conceived metaphor."

He later added: "Should have left it at 'best of a bad bunch' Ah well #imnewtothis @bbcquestiontime."

Mr Morgan joked that the footballer was "not bad company for an ugly bloke".

Is Barton channelling John Maynard Keynes?

Football's "philosopher king" is not the first thinker to use a beauty contest analogy. In his 1936 General Theory of Employment Interest and Money, the great economist John Maynard Keynes explains the volatility of the stock market by comparing it to newspaper contests in which readers are asked to select the six most beautiful women from 100 photographs. The best strategy, he wrote, was not to pick your personal favourite but to "devote our intelligences to anticipating what average opinion expects the average opinion to be".

A BBC spokeswoman said: "Joey Barton was robustly challenged on his comments by both the panel and the audience. He apologised on the programme, putting his comment down to nerves.

"Question Time often features journalists, comedians, campaigners and other public figures to add a different perspective to the panel."

Mr Barton, who is well known for holding court on political issues on Twitter, is not the first footballer to appear on the show. Former Burnley defender Clarke Carlisle has taken part on several occasions, firstly in 2011.

The QPR player has a chequered history on and off the football pitch.

In 2004 he was fined six weeks' wages by Manchester City after he stubbed a cigar in the eye of young team-mate Jamie Tandy during a Christmas party.

In 2007 he received a suspended jail sentence and was given a 12-match ban for a training ground altercation with team-mate Ousmane Dabo, which left him needing hospital treatment.

The following year he was jailed for six months for common assault and affray after a late-night attack on a man in his native Liverpool.

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