• Ukip leader Paul Nuttall blames Labour for claims he was not at stadium disaster
  • MEP finished second to Labour in Stoke-on-Trent Central by-election last month
  • Nuttall supports Douglas Carswell staying in Ukip if he lobbies for Farage's knighthood

Paul Nuttall has blamed Labour for using an "orchestrated smear campaign" to spread claims he was not at Hillsborough the day of the football stadium disaster for Ukip losing the Stone-on-Trent Central by-election last month.

The Ukip leader finished second to Labour candidate Gareth Snell.

Nuttall was forced onto the defensive during the campaign after it emerged his personal website contained inaccuracies, including claims that one of the 96 people killed in the Hillsborough crush was a close friend of his. In his first interview since his defeat, Nuttall said Labour was responsible for suggesting he was not at the Sheffield ground that day.

"There was an orchestrated smear campaign that I knew was coming from December, which was suggesting that I wasn't actually at Hillsborough," he told The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday.

Paul Nuttall
Ukip leader Paul Nuttall said Ukip must hold its nerve BBC

When pushed by the BBC presenter on who was responsible he said merely "a political party, let's leave it at that" before blaming Labour.

"They suggested I wasn't actually at Hillsborough. I have provided a witness statement, I have given evidence to Operation Resolve and prepared to stand in a witness stand in a court of law," he added.

A Ukip press officer admitted to included the claim Nuttall lost a friend at Hillsborough, which had been on Nuttall's web page since 2011.

His website also included a claim that Nuttall had been a professional footballer for Tranmere Rovers. The MEP had in fact played in their youth ranks between the ages of 13-18.Rebutting the claims, a defiant Nuttall called for "perspective" over in the inaccuracies, saying he had "not lied about weapons of mass destruction or taken us into an illegal war".

Rebutting claims he had made false statements about his background, a defiant Nuttall called for "perspective" over in the inaccuracies, saying he had "not lied about weapons of mass destruction or taken us into an illegal war".

Talking about the same issue in a pre-recorded interview for Sky News, he told journalist Sophie Ridge: "I want to put this in perspective. I didn't lie about WMDs, I didn't send anyone into an illegal war, I didn't say anything racist. I have never been caught in a paedophile gang or anything.

"I failed to check the Hillsborough information that went up on my website. People need to take perspective. But, this story has been allowed to roll on because it suits people with a certain political purpose. It has been a political hit job on me."

Asked on the BBC show if he was the right man the lead Ukip, Nuttall admitted he had "moments of doubt" but that he was the only person who could unite the party, which has been blighted by in-fighting between Ukip's only MP Douglas Carswell and its former leader Nigel Farage, and the party's major donor Arron Banks.

"There is a narrative out there, which is being spun by media outlets that have political motivations to see Ukip destroyed. Of course, I am the right person to lead this party, I was the only person who could have unified the party, brought it together and ensured that it stayed on the pitch. What Ukip has got to do now is it's got to hold its nerve. Politics will come back onto Ukip's turf in the near future once the government begins to backslide on Article 50 and all we've got to do is stay in the game."

MP Douglas Carswell was last week accused of blocking a knighthood for former leader Nigel Farage.

The former Tory denies the claim and has written to the party executive explaining his lobbying attempts.

Asked if Carswell would be pushed out of the party, Nuttall said he did not "see a problem" with him remaining, providing it is found he attempted to secure Farage a knighthood.