A senior Ukip MEP candidate who recently called for abusive activists to be arrested by police has been caught on camera swearing at a group of local protesters.

Janice Atkinson, the UK Independence Party's South East chair who describes herself as Nigel Farage's "number two", was pictured brandishing her middle finger at members of the People's Assembly in Ashford, Kent.

Although Ms Atkinson has admitted she is "not proud" of her actions, she says she has no regrets, claiming protesters had made personal comments about her appearance.

She reportedly told protesters: "I don't care where you f*****g post this, just f**k off!"

The image soon gathered momentum on Twitter after it was posted by Maria Pizzey, a People's Assembly and Green Party member who attended the protest. The image has now gone viral, with a post on Facebook describing the incident receiving more than 30,000 shares.

Ms Pizzey stated she and a small number of activists had held a peaceful protest next to Ms Atkinson and Norman Taylor, Ukip's Ashford chair, who reportedly seemed embarrassed by his colleague's behaviour.

Thom Pizzey, who also attended the protest, told the Independent: "We never shouted. We stood respectfully and quietly to the side of their stall and let people approach us."

He added that the group had merely been exercising freedom to protest and free speech, and that the only aggression was from Ms Atkinson herself.

Ms Atkinson later defended her actions, saying the protesters had been harassing the public and she was upset by comments made about Ukip members.

According to Kent Online, she later said at Ukip's rally in Margate: "I was angry that some of our supporters including pensioners were being called racist bigots and fascists. I got angry but I don't regret it."

Speaking to The Independent, Ms Atkinson accused the activists of being "the Socialist Workers anarchy wing of the Greens" and "masquerading as ordinary voters against Ukip".

"One young woman who said she was in her 30s and had never voted before, said she was voting for me," she said. "The fat Green woman approached her, telling her that I was a racist bigot.

"I think my view of them is self evident. I have nothing else to add."

There have been a string of altercations in the South East between Ukip and several groups, including the Green Party and Unite Against Facism.

Ms Atkinson was also criticised for saying areas of Kent were "no-go areas" due to gangs of Eastern European immigrants. She later denied the comments were alarmist, stating: "People have come to me with tales of intimidation and I try to persuade them to go public but they feel they can't."

Ms Atkinson, a former Tory candidate, is currently the second choice on Ukip's selected list for the South East, behind leader Nigel Farage.