By Adam Bienkov
Men are being passed over for promotion in favour of less qualified women because employers are "prejudiced" against men, controversial Ukip MEP Godfrey Bloom told an audience last night.
Speaking at a debate about gender quotas at the Institute of Economic Affairs, Bloom said that professional women were being promoted beyond their abilities.
"The young women there who asked is there any prejudice against [women] I will tell you… that if you worked certainly in the public sector or a reasonably large company who can smell which way the wind is blowing, you are far more likely to be advanced by being a woman in your quest for promotion than disadvantaged and I know that.
"Nigel [Farage] and I could give you personal stories how that's worked in the [European] commission where very, very highly qualified men have been jumped over to get a woman into a more senior position with nowhere near the qualifications."
He claimed that female members of the armed forces were being allowed to pass courses, simply because examiners "didn't have the bottle" to fail them.
"I saw it even years ago in the army. I saw for example on a squadron commanders' course, I saw ladies who frankly shouldn't have passed the course, passed because nobody had the bottle to fail a woman where they would have failed a man. So I think it goes in the other direction."
Bloom was the subject of a media row last week when he complained about British aid money going to "bongo bongo land".
There were several other senior Ukip figures at the debate last night including Nigel Farage.
At one point Ukip treasurer and former Tory donor Stuart Wheeler told the audience that women's low representation on company boards was justified due to their poor performance at chess and bridge.
"I would just like to challenge the idea that it is necessarily right to have a lot of women or any particular number on a board," he said.
"Business is very, very competitive and if you take the performance of women in another competitive area, which is sport where they have no strength advantage: chess, bridge, poker - women come absolutely nowhere."
Panelist Dr Clare Gerada described this as "a disingenuous, sexist comment," and pointed out that her own mother was a bridge champion in Malta.
Godfrey Bloom previously caused controversy after claiming that "no self-respecting small businessman with a brain in the right place would ever employ a lady of child-bearing age" adding that "I quite simply feel that they don't clean behind the fridge."
Earlier this year Ukip's only female MEP quit the party after claiming that Nigel Farage "does not like women".