Nigel Farage
Nigel Farage's UKIP has been embroiled in a series of rows about its members extremist viewsReuters

UKIP has defended one of its MEPs who coached young party members to emulate Hitler's style of public speaking.

West Midlands MEP Bill Etheridge said Hitler had been "the most magnetic and forceful public speaker possibly in history" and told young members of UKIP that they should copy Hitler's style of public speaking in order to give more effective speeches.

The Mail on Sunday reports that Mr Etheridge made the comments in a media training session the party had asked him to lead during the Young Independence Conference for UKIP members under 30, in Birmingham in August.

He told the audience Hitler was "a hateful figure who achieved a great deal" but that UKIP members could "pick up little moments" from his speeches.

Mr Etheridge, 44, said: "Look back to the most magnetic and forceful public speaker possibly in history. When Hitler gave speeches, and many of the famous ones were at rallies, at the start he walks, back and forth, looked at people – there was a silence, he waited minutes just looking out at people, fixing them with his gaze.

"They were looking back and he would do it for a while. And then they were so desperate for him to start, when he started speaking they were hanging on his every word."

Mr Etheridge is the author of a book called Britan: A Post-Political Correctness Society, which features a picture of two golliwogs on the cover. He stressed he did not agree with Hitler's views but should be able to discuss his methods.

In a statement, Mr Etheridge defended himself, saying: "I was talking about a whole range of public speakers and the techniques they used. At no point did I endorse Hitler or anybody else. I was merely discussing public speaking and the techniques used down the years.

"Hitler and the Nazis were monsters and I am angry that I am even being asked questions about whether we would wish to be linked with them. [This is] Yet another cheap shot to deal with from the media."

Labour MP Mike Gapes told the Mail On Sunday: "I thought nothing could surprise me anymore, but this just goes to show that (Nigel) Farage has completely failed to clean up his party. One of his MEPs training young candidates to speak like Hitler? Simply unbelievable."

UKIP leader Nigel Farage is set to stand for a Parliamentary seat in Thanet South, Kent. But he faces an uphill battle to reform his party's image after a series of rows about UKIP members' extremist views.

A UKIP spokesperson said the Mail On Sunday's interpretation of the speech was "truly disgusting".

"Bill Etheridge gave a seminar on public speaking and highlighted great speakers of the past, like Churchill, Blair, Martin Luther King and Hitler as people whose style, not content could be studied.

"It is no surprise that two national newspapers have covered this conference – The Guardian and The Mail on Sunday. One gave it a fair hearing, the other as a Tory paper is terrified by the rise of UKIP and apparently will stoop to nothing to attack the party. We are disappointed, but unsurprised.

"During a period of respectful and pensive commemoration of those who gave their lives in war, the Tory Mail on Sunday's tasteless and desperate front page attack is truly disgusting."