A UKIP county council candidate, who jetted off to Thailand days before last week’s elections, has justified his absence by claiming he was trying to save his marriage.

Last week, David Watson, a candidate in Basingstoke’s South East division, was on the front page of The Gazette, after posting comments on Facebook about getting drunk in Thailand, less than a week before the county council elections on May 2.

His Facebook page suggested he had moved to Thailand for six months, while other candidates were out drumming up support from potential voters.

His wife of 10 years, 31-year-old Phattawan Watson, told The Gazette her husband had left her and their three children to “find his future life in Thailand.”

But speaking from Thailand, this week Mr Watson, of Mozart Close, Brighton Hill, told The Gazette that he was in the country for a break from his marriage because his relationship had broken down as a result of a long-running custody battle.

Despite his absence, the 51-year-old still came second in the vote, polling 27 per cent of the vote.

UKIP colleague Councillor Stephen West has accused Mr Watson of bringing the party into “disrepute”, and said he needs to explain his actions to UKIP leaders.

But Mr Watson dismissed Cllr West’s comments, and said his decision to move to Thailand at the end of last month was known by the party’s top brass.

“I spoke to Nigel Farage’s assistant, and they knew exactly what was going on,” he said. “They were aware of my personal situation as was my agent Phil Heath, and Basingstoke chairman Alan Stone.

“This is a hard decision because of my kids. I have to leave a wife who hates me but who I love a lot. I can’t do any more rather than withdraw from the situation.”

He admitted he was “not happy” that he had left his children, and added: “I want to make it work. I have three children I love to pieces. The last thing I want to do is split the family up.”

He said he speaks to his wife daily, and transfers money to her.

Mrs Watson told The Gazette this week that she plans to file for a divorce by the end of this month, and added: “I just want to get it done and start my life.”