Amongst a series of embarrassments for UKIP at the first plenary session of the new European Parliament, none was bigger than comments made by Godfrey Bloom MEP, whom UKIP named as its representative for the European Parliament Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality.
Proudly proclaiming that he would be representing "men's rights" on the committee, Bloom made clear his views on a number of gender equality issues.
On maternity leave, he said that "[if] you want to have a baby, you hand in your resignation and free up a job for another young lady", explaining that he would like to overturn EU maternity legislation if his position allowed. He said maternity laws that gave women six months of paid leave and the option of another six months unpaid leave, had resulted in women losing jobs and employment. Many businesses only employed women over 40, he said.
"Regulation in protection of women is all well and good in academic and government circles. If you're a small business, you'd be a lunatic to hire a woman of child bearing age." A party spokesman then backtracked from Bloom's position, suggesting that an exemption for businesses with less than 20 employees could solve much of the problem.
He also claimed that he wanted "to deal with women's issues [...] because I just don't think they clean behind the fridge enough." He added: "I am here to represent Yorkshire women, who always have dinner on the table when you get home."
Labour MEP Glenys Kinnock said that Bloom is "entitled to join the committee, though I wouldn't hold out much hope he'll enjoy it or get an easy ride." However, UKIP's attendance record in the last parliament suggests that he will attend only enough meetings to qualify for parliamentary allowances.
Kathy Sinnott, an Irish member of the Independence and Democracy group, to which UKIP belongs, said that she is considering whether she can remain a member of the same political group in the Parliament.
Despite his bluster, neighbours of Bloom point out that for all his straight talking, his home life does not bear out his notions of a woman's work being cleaning and cooking - his wife Katie is one of the country's leading horse physiotherapists.
In his home village of Wressle, Yorkshire, the Guardian found that Mr Bloom's neighbours were distinctly unimpressed with their new representative in Europe, with women in the village describing him as a "buffoon".
"My husband and I are a small business, and I can tell you they wouldn't exist without women," local businesswoman Claire Smith told the Guardian.
The Guardian was also told of Bloom's notoriously explosive bonfire night party and how, according to fellow guests, he lectures dinner parties on subjects such as the "lack of famous women composers".
http://www.guardian.co.uk/guardianpolitics/story/0,,1266246,00.html; http://politics.guardian.co.uk/eu/story/0,,1266963,00.html; http://www.guardian.co.uk/guardianpolitics/story/0,,1265637,00.html; http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,1265336,00.html; The Independent, 21 July 2004