LABOUR's candidate in the Stoke-on-Trent Central by-election has apologised for posting a series of abusive tweets aimed at women.

Gareth Snell described panellists on ITV's Loose Women as "squabbling sour-faced ladies", called presenter Janet Street-Porter a "polished turd" and said a "speccy blonde girl" on BBC's The Apprentice should "p*** off", in comments highlighted by the Guido Fawkes website.

Ukip - whose leader Paul Nuttall is expected to mount a strong challenge in the contest triggered by the resignation of Labour's Tristram Hunt - said the comments were "distasteful" and showed a lack of maturity.

Loading article content

In a statement, Mr Snell expressed regret for the remarks which he said had been made a number of years previously.

"I regret these tweets,” he declared. “They were from years ago when I was tweeting along with TV programmes but, nevertheless, I shouldn't have tweeted those comments and I apologise for the offence they have caused."

A former leader of Newcastle-under-Lyme borough council, Mr Snell has previously caused controversy with online comments describing party leader Jeremy Corbyn as an "IRA supporting friend of Hamas" and denouncing Brexit as a "massive pile of s***".

A Ukip spokesman said: "The Labour candidate is in danger of coming across as a foul-mouthed young man with a lot of growing up still to do.

"The people of Stoke-on-Trent Central clearly deserve much better than this to represent them in the House of Commons.

"They deserve a seasoned, grown-up political figure who will treat them with respect and set out their concerns in more eloquent and thoughtful fashion," he added.

Meantime, Mr Nuttall has said he would not be putting down any roots in Stoke-on-Trent if he lost the by-election, which takes place Thursday week.

Mr Nuttall was responding to reported comments from Mr Snell that he should "sod off back to where he came from".

Asked by reporters if he would stay in Stoke should he lose the vote on February 23, Mr Nuttall, from Liverpool, said: "If I lose the election, no; I won't, no."

He added that he would have responsibilities as a North West regional MEP.

Mr Snell is reported to have said the Ukip leader had tried to "brand himself Mr Stoke" but was only interested in getting a seat in Parliament.

"If someone can tell me he has a genuine love for The Potteries, I will be amazed,” said Mr Snell.

"If he's only interested in being the leader of Ukip in Parliament he should take his bags and sod off back to where he came from," he added.

Mr Nuttall, speaking to reporters in Stoke, said: "I'm not really going to get into it because as the Admiral Jackie Fisher said, if you have a fight with a chimney sweep, you'll only ever get covered in soot."

He added: "If I win the by-election I will move here, I've made that absolutely 100 per cent clear."

Labour is defending the seat, the contest for which was sparked by the resignation of former frontbencher Tristram Hunt. He won the constituency at the 2015 General Election with a majority of 5,179. Ukip and the Conservatives came second and third respectively but only 33 votes divided them.

Ukip is in particular targeting the seat as Stoke was dubbed Britain’s Brexit capital after almost 70 per cent of voters there backed leaving the EU in last year’s referendum.