Tuesday, October 19

Kilroy-Silk bemused by "secret leadership poll"

The UKIP leadership debate is still threatening to tear UKIP apart as Kilory-Silk found out about Roger Knapman's poll of party chairmen intended to consolidate his power in the job.

Kilroy-Silk told thee BBC today that he was 'very bemused' but happy they had been converted to the idea of a leadership election. "But why don't they hold an honest, open election where the results are verifiable - instead of having this backdoor poll which is reminiscent of a banana republic. If they want to have a poll let's have a proper one."

It had been agreed in Brussels last week to put to one side any questions about the leadership but that agreement had been broken by the leadership with the poll, he said. But since that meeting, Mr Kilroy-Silk had written to 400 party chairman asking if they wanted to be ruled by a cabal and whether they wanted to be a political party or a pressure group. Mr Kilroy-Silk said his letter had not been a leadership bid but a call for a debate on the party's future.

However, it appears that Knapman has more supporters than the former Labour MP. So far of the 115 chairmen contacted so far out of a total of 235, 79 have backed Mr Knapman, 15 supported Mr Kilroy-Silk and 21 were undecided.

The new UKIP donor, Alan Bown, has now threatened to withdraw any more funding if Kilroy-Silk continues his leadership bid. He has appealed for unity. He said, "It seems to me completely unnecessary to go through a leadership contest so near to a general election.

"The figures agree with my own view that there should be no contest.

"Consequently, I am appealing to Robert to abandon his leadership bid for the sake of party unity.

"If Robert decides to continue with his leadership challenge, I will reluctantly have to reconsider the funding that I have promised for his personal election campaign in the East Midlands. "

Mr Bown praised Mr Knapman in his efforts as the party leader, adding that he has increased party membership from 8,000 to 26,500.

Source: Gallery News, Tuesday 19th Ocotber 2004, http://politics.guardian.co.uk/otherparties/story/0,,1330879,00.html

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