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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 October, 2004, 21:27 GMT 22:27 UK
Kilroy says he won't keep quiet
Robert Kilroy-Silk and Roger Knapman
Mr Kilroy-Silk says the party is not grown-up
Euro MP Robert Kilroy-Silk has refused to stop criticising the leadership of the UK Independence Party despite the demands of its senior officials.

UKIP's leader Roger Knapman says he has overwhelming backing from local chairmen after a telephone poll.

The party asked 162 branch chairmen who they would support in a leadership vote - Mr Knapman or Mr Kilroy-Silk.

Senior UKIP officials have warned the ex-TV host they will take "firm action" if he attempts to fuel dissent.

Settled?

After some confusion over the figures, UKIP said 109 branch chairmen had backed Mr Knapman's leadership, 25 had said they supported Mr Kilroy-Silk and 28 were undecided.

The party is still trying to contact the remaining 62 branch chairmen before announcing the final result.

Mr Knapman said the question over his leadership was now settled.

That would be a fraud on the British electorate
Robert Kilroy-Silk on keeping quiet

Senior party figures, including eight MEPs and major donor Alan Bown, have written to Mr Kilroy-Silk saying his talents could be a valuable part of UKIP's effort.

"Instead you have repeatedly promoted your own leadership and must be aware of the damage done to the party by your public comments," said the letter.

Asking the MEP to show loyalty, it added: "We will take firm action against further attempts to foment dissent which we would not tolerate."

'Team player'

Earlier Mr Knapman told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We are asking him to make up his mind either to support the party or plough a single furrow."

Asked about reports that the MEP could lose the UKIP whip at the European Parliament, Mr Knapman said that point had not yet been reached.

It was hoped Mr Kilroy-Silk would now be a good team player, he said.

"If he can't be a good team player, he owes it to himself and the party to consider his future carefully," added Mr Knapman.

That prompted Mr Kilroy-Silk to say: "There isn't a team ... if there was a team then the criticism would be valid but it's not."

'No fraud'

He went to brand the poll "farcical" and said those surveyed had faced "moral blackmail and emotional pressure".

He told BBC Radio 4's World At One there should be an open, honest and independently verifiable poll of all 28,000 UKIP members.

The East Midlands MEP accused Mr Knapman of being "invisible" and argued there was no team to be part of as the party did not appoint spokesmen on individual subjects.

Mr Kilroy-Silk said he was talking about the direction the party should take, not about the leadership.

And he refused to keep quiet about the party's serious defects.

"That would be a fraud on the British electorate and I'm not prepared to be party to that deception," he said, insisting he would not get out of the "heat in the kitchen".

'No pressure'

He later told BBC News 24 that if UKIP could not manage internal debate and wanted to expel him it would be more like a dictatorship than a political party.

He also suggested more branch chairmen had been canvassed for the poll than there were branches registered with the Electoral Commission.

A UKIP spokesman told BBC News Online not all branches were accounting units which needed to be registered.

"The branch chairmen were made aware the poll was without fear or favour and no long-term record would be kept," said the spokesman.

"The idea that people have been lent on is laughable."




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
How the leadership row could split UKIP



SEE ALSO:
Kilroy steps up party leader bid
18 Oct 04  |  Politics
UKIP debates Kilroy's ambitions
13 Oct 04  |  Politics
UKIP demands pamphlet is pulped
12 Oct 04  |  Politics
Kilroy warned to get back in line
06 Oct 04  |  Politics
UKIP donor pulls plug on funding
06 Oct 04  |  Politics


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