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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 January, 2005, 13:51 GMT
The end of the affair
By Brian Wheeler
BBC News political reporter

He was a tanned, dashing TV presenter, with a smooth line in populist patter.

Robert Kilroy-Silk, left, with UKIP leader Roger Knapman
Mr Kilroy-Silk, left, with UKIP leader Roger Knapman

They were a fringe political party, hungry for publicity.

It seemed like a marriage made in heaven.

But after barely nine months of wedded bliss, Robert Kilroy-Silk's romance with the UK Independence Party has come to a bitter end.

That giddy night in June, when they seemed to have the political world at their feet, the honeymoon in Brussels, are all just a memory now.

Mr Kilroy-Silk is off - apparently to form his own party, Veritas - leaving UKIP's leadership, like divorcees the world over, wondering where it all went wrong.


Like many a whirlwind romance, UKIP's relationship with Mr Kilroy-Silk blossomed in the spring.

They assured me both nationally and regionally that there was huge support
Robert Kilroy-Silk, on joining UKIP, May 2004
The former Labour MP's axing from the BBC had just come through and - freed from the constraints of balance and impartiality - he was looking to get involved in politics again.

And like many men who unexpectedly take a glamorous partner late in life, UKIP's leaders lost no time in showing their new paramour off.

It's about the issue - not me - people are voting for the issue
On UKIP's European election result, June 2004

Paul Sykes, the party's wealthy benefactor, beamed with pride as he watched Mr Kilroy-Silk perform for the TV cameras.

Mr Kilroy-Silk avoided public displays of affection for his new political allies.

But there was also little sign of the tension to come. Theirs was a relationship based on mutual respect, it seemed - and the voters were clearly impressed.

There is no fierce infighting. Roger Knapman I like and I get on with...I have no desire to be the leader of UKIP
On his relationship with Roger Knapman, August 2004
In June, the party triumphed in the European elections, winning 12 seats - giving them nearly as much voting power in Brussels as Ireland or Denmark.

But - in a sign of things to come it was Mr Kilroy-Silk - and not party leader Roger Knapman - who grabbed the headlines, with his vow to "wreck" the European Parliament.


Mr Kilroy-Silk started saying he wasn't content to just be a part of a small time pressure group.

A keen student of history, who started his career as a university politics lecturer, he believed the party had stumbled across that rarest of things - a window of opportunity.

He was anxious to seize the moment.

I would like to be leader of UKIP, I would regard it as a privilege and an honour, and I think I could turn it into a very effective, electoral fighting force
On his leadership ambitions, October 2004

"Weeks passed, nothing happened. Several times I told the party leadership we were losing the initiative we gained in June," he wrote in a newspaper column.

And there was another problem. He was starting to feel under-appreciated - rattling around in his 17th Century Buckinghamshire manor house, while Mr Knapman and the others jetted off on their summer holidays.

That was the one lie I've told
On saying he had "no intention" of becoming UKIP leader, October 2004
"All summer I've had responsibility without power," he complained to the Evening Standard. "The press are treating me as leader already."

He finally made his bid for glory at the party's October conference, saying UKIP's mission should be to "kill" the Conservative Party.

This was too much for the UKIP leadership, many of whom, including Mr Knapman, had defected from the Tory party in the first place.

UKIP was about withdrawal from the EU - not dreams of political glory, they said.

They hadn't spent years building up grassroots support only to have a Johnny-come-lately chat show host come along and take over their party.

Do we want the leadership to be elected and publicly accountable or are we content to continue to be governed by a self-selecting cabal?
Letter to UKIP members, October 2004
"He's not a team player," Mr Knapman complained.

There were dark mutterings about Kilroy trying to turn UKIP into the "chat show party".

Mr Kilroy-Silk started trying to drum up support for his leadership bid among UKIP members, but it was to little avail.

For months now it has been clear that the two had irreconcilable differences.

Looking back, it seems obvious that like most showbusiness marriages - Brad and Jennifer, Kerry and Brian, Les and Amanda - it probably never stood a chance.

Kilroy-Silk set to quit the UKIP
20 Jan 05 |  Politics
Kilroy quits UKIP group of MEPs
27 Oct 04 |  Politics
Major warns Tories against UKIP
24 Oct 04 |  Politics
UKIP branches 'reject Kilroy bid'
20 Oct 04 |  Politics


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