Meanwhile, Kilroy-Silk rallies the UKIP 'cranks and gadflies'

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Robert Kilroy-Silk glided on to the stage of the UKIP conference, his nuclear tan drowning out the gaudy purple and yellow backdrop.

"I've been dying to meet you lot," he beamed. "I never knew what a load of gadflies, cranks and extremists would look like. You look normal to me." A statement so profoundly wrong that it made you question what sort of people RKS had been hanging out with since being dumped by the BBC.

But at least he brought some much-needed panache to a spectacle where the most over-used word was "Shh!" as the aged audience strained to hear their prejudices stroked.

UKIP's leader, Nigel Farage MEP, quashed any suggestion his party's gathering lacked style, saying: "We don't have Bono but we do have Rusty Lee." They also have Jonathan Aitken, a potential candidate spotted among the crowds, and Piers Merchant, their chief executive.

Pressed about the white, middle-class and elderly image of his band of Euro-loathers, Mr Farage replied: "Oh no, I wouldn't say we were too male," presumably conceding the other points.

Indeed the Tory conference this week will look like a teen disco at the United Nations in comparison. But who needs style when you have silk - Robert Kilroy-Silk that is.

Backstage, party worker Aurelie Laloux was singing "La Mer" in her native French tongue and then singing the praises of the seemingly self-tanning man.

"When my friends in Paris heard what he was saying about Europe they turned white," she trilled before returning to her song.

No doubt that would be a familiar feeling to anyone who caught his morning talk show before it was axed. The silken one may have burned brightest, but he was outdone for radicalism by ex-Police Federation chairman Alan Eastwood. He proposed the wonderfully novel idea of bringing back hanging and legalising drugs. But he warned the delegates: "Legalisation does not mean that we will all have to take drugs.''

Judging by the wild eyes and foot-stomping of many of those listening, his plea for restraint may well have come too late. Outside the main hall, party members pored over books with titles such as The Last Days of Britain, The Rise of Fascist Europe and Our Immigration Crisis Exposed - a theme benignly looked down upon by pictures of previous headliners at Bristol's Colston Hall such as Jimi Hendrix and the Clash.

One woman did have a complaint about RKS, whispering: "He didn't say anything about the Germans, you know, what they are up to?''

Not that it seemed to bother the rest of the delegates - they had been touched by Silk.