Kilroy-Silk lays claim to the leadership of UKIP

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Indy Politics

Robert Kilroy-Silk yesterday made a blatant grab for the leadership of the UK Independence Party by urging its lacklustre current leader, Roger Knapman, to quit before the general election

Robert Kilroy-Silk yesterday made a blatant grab for the leadership of the UK Independence Party by urging its lacklustre current leader, Roger Knapman, to quit before the general election

The former chat-show host said a majority of UKIP members wanted him to lead the party into the next general election. But last night, party supporters at their conference in Bristol rallied behind Mr Knapman.

Mr Kilroy-Silk eclipsed Mr Knapman on Saturday by calling on UKIP to "kill off" the dying Tory Party. He used a television interview to undermine Mr Knapman as he was celebrating his party's success in beating the Tories into fourth place in the Hartlepool by-election.

"I would like to be leader of UKIP. I think I could turn it into a very effective, electoral fighting force," Mr Kilroy-Silk said on the BBC's Breakfast with Frost show. "What everybody tells me they want is for the current leader to accept the inevitable and to stand down. That's the only way it can happen."

He added: "I'm told there's a vast majority of the party who would like that to happen, and indeed during the last June elections, the current leader told me and others that he would step down after the election - but then of course he got a massive election result and probably liked the size of his new train set and now he's changed his mind - that's fine."

Asked whether he thought he would make a better leader, Mr Kilroy-Silk said: "Well I wouldn't be wanting to be the leader if I didn't think that, would I? Now you will think that's arrogant and presumptuous and I'll get accused of all those things but of course I think it would be better, otherwise I wouldn't want to stand."

Paul Sykes, the multimillionaire Eurosceptic, made it clear at the weekend he wanted Mr Kilroy-Silk to be the leader before guaranteeing more funding for the party. Mr Kilroy-Silk said he would be standing for the Westminster Parliament at the next election, and is expected to stand against Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary.

Last night Mr Knapman hit back, denying he had offered to stand down, saying he was "happy" with his record as leader and had no intention of resigning to let Mr Kilroy-Silk lead the party into the general election. "If I ever felt it was in the party's interests for me to stand down I would certainly consider it," he said. "I am here to serve. I have done my best for the party and I am happy with my record, the party is still growing. I fully anticipate serving a full four-year term as leader."

UKIP also revealed yesterday the former TV chef, Rusty Lee, is the latest celebrity to join their parliamentary candidates for the next election.

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