Robert Kilroy-Silk

Robert Kilroy-Silk

Infobox MEP

honorific-prefix =
name = Robert Kilroy-Silk
honorific-suffix =
party = Labour (1974-2004)
UKIP (2004-5)
Veritas (2005-present)
(Sitting in the European Parliament as an Independent)
constituency_MP = East Midlands, UK
parliament = European
term_start = 2004
term_end =
majority =
predecessor =
successor =
constituency_MP2 = Knowsley North
party2 = Labour Party
parliament2 =
term_start2 = 1983
term_end2 = 1986
constituency_MP3 = Ormskirk
party3 = Labour Party
parliament3 =
term_start3 = 1974
term_end3 = 1983
birth_date = Birth date and age|1942|5|19|df=y
birth_place =
death_date =
death_place =
nationality = British
spouse =
relations =
children =
residence =
alma_mater = London School of Economics
occupation =
profession = Television Presenter
religion =

website =
footnotes =

Robert Michael Kilroy-Silk (born 19 May 1942) is an English politician, independent Member of the European Parliament and a former television presenter, best known for his daytime talk show "Kilroy". Before this he was a university lecturer and Labour Party Member of Parliament (MP) who stood successfully for the UK Independence Party (UKIP) in the 2004 election to the European Parliament, before leaving them in 2005 to found a new party called "Veritas", from which he in turn resigned as leader later the same year.

Education and background


Robert Silk was born in Birmingham, the son of William Silk, a Royal Navy stoker, and his wife Rose. William Silk was lost at sea the following year, aged 22. Rose then married his best friend, John Kilroy, a car worker at the Rootes plant in the West Midlands, who adopted the young boy and gave him the first part of his surname.

In 1963, Kilroy-Silk married Jan Beech, a shop steward's daughter. They have a son (Dominic), a daughter (Natasha), and a grandson (Zachary).


He was educated at Cheeseley Grammar School, Birmingham and later attended the London School of Economics before he became a lecturer in politics at Liverpool University from 1966-1974. He published a theoretical work, "Socialism since Marx", in 1972.

Political career

Labour MP

He was a Labour MP for Ormskirk from 1974 to 1983 and for Knowsley North from 1983 to 1986. In an article for "The Times" in 1975 Kilroy-Silk argued that politics was not "compromises and bargains" or hankering after "a spurious consensus" but the function of government, particularly a Labour government, was "to impose its values on society. Its role is creative: to cast, so far as it is able, society in its image". Furthermore, socialists should not be worried about being accused of dictatorial powers; they must go forward with "a tint of arrogance". [Robert Kilroy-Silk, 'Labour must not be frightened of making socialism work', "The Times", 29 April 1975.]

He was appointed Shadow Home Affairs spokesman, but resigned in 1985. In resigning his seat, he claimed that he had been victimised and assaulted by members of Militant tendency. He was reported to have had a scuffle with left-wing Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn. [Robert Chalmers [ "Interview: Here Comes Trouble",] "Independent on Sunday", 6 June 2004. Retrieved on 4 May 2007.] He wrote a book about his experiences, entitled "Hard Labour".

UK Independence Party

Candidate in European Parliament elections

In 2004, Kilroy-Silk was recruited to the UK Independence Party (UKIP) during that year's European Parliament Election campaign, and presented one of the party's party political broadcasts. His appointment increased the profile of the party, as did the support conferred on the party by Joan Collins, who was persuaded by Kilroy-Silk to attend a UKIP press conference. Kilroy-Silk successfully stood for the Party in the East Midlands region.

The result (using a closed list form of proportional representation) was that UKIP scored 26.05 per cent of the vote in that region, just behind the Conservatives with 26.39 per cent. Kilroy-Silk was thus elected as a Member of the European Parliament in the second seat for his region.

Leadership ambitions

In the 2004 Hartlepool by-election UKIP came third, ahead of the Conservative Party. The next day, in an interview on "Breakfast with Frost" (BBC), he expressed an interest in leading his party and criticised the current leader, Roger Knapman. Following this, Paul Sykes, the businessman, and a friend of Kilroy-Silk, announced his intention to cease his partial funding of UKIP and to return his support to the Conservatives, fearing that the euro-sceptic vote might be split. The branch chairmen of UKIP were canvassed on their opinion regarding Kilroy-Silk's challenge for the party leadership. Only a minority (13%) were sympathetic to him, a result which he objected to, owing to the small proportion of party members who had been consulted. Kilroy-Silk was threatened with disciplinary action if he continued, in the view of his opponents, to bring the party into disrepute.

On 27 October 2004, he officially announced that he had withdrawn from the UKIP whip in the European Parliament, branding the party "incompetent". However, he said that he would be staying on as a member of UKIP in an independent capacity, and would continue to challenge for the leadership.

UKIP's constitution states that 70 days' notice is required before a leadership ballot can take place. With the next general election in the UK expected in spring 2005, Kilroy pushed for an emergency general meeting of the party as early as possible. On 3 November 2004, Kilroy said he intended to be leader by Christmas, though this would have been impossible under the rules.

On 20 January 2005, Kilroy announced that he had left the UKIP after nine months as a member.


On 30 January 2005, the plans to launch a new political party, Veritas, were confirmed. It was announced that UKIP's leader in the London Assembly, Damian Hockney, had defected to Veritas, becoming its first Deputy Leader.

The party was formally launched on 2 February 2005 at Hinckley Golf Club inLeicestershire. In the 2005 general election, Kilroy-Silk contested the seat of Erewash, but came fourth, barely keeping his deposit. Kilroy attempted unsuccessfully to press charges against a man who he claimed "smashed a bottle of water against the side of his head" while Kilroy was being interviewed by a European television crew outside the Asda supermarket in Long Eaton, part of the Erewash constituency during the election campaign. Kilroy described this as a "deliberate, premeditated and cowardly attack by an adult man who should have known better". The alleged assailant stated that he merely squirted Kilroy with water from a plastic bottle before running away; this account was corroborated by the TV crew which filmed the incident. The police decided not to prosecute.

On 12 July 2005, party member Ken Wharton announced his intention to challenge Kilroy-Silk for the leadership, claiming party members are "not being looked after". Discontented party members set up the Veritas Members Association to "put the truth back into Veritas". []

On 29 July 2005, Veritas announced the resignation of Kilroy-Silk as party leader. [] In his resignation statement, he said: "It was clear from the general election result - and more recently that of the Cheadle by-election - that the electors are content with the old parties and that it would be virtually impossible for a new party to make a significant impact given the nature of our electoral system. We tried and failed."

Independent MEP

As of September 2008, Kilroy-Silk, who was elected to the European Parliament on the UKIP list, remains a member of the Veritas Party, but sits as an Independent MEP. It has been reported that Veritas members have questioned why Kilroy-Silk is allowed to continue his party membership. [,9061,1539084,00.html?gusrc=rss]

Media career


His show "Kilroy" started on 24 November 1986 as "Day To Day" and ran until 2004, when it was was cancelled by the BBC after an article entitled 'We owe Arabs nothing' by Kilroy-Silk [] was published in the "Sunday Express" on 4 January of that year.


In 2001, Kilroy-Silk hosted a television programme on ITV1 called "Shafted". It was a quiz-show based on answering questions and eliminating fellow contestants. At the end of the show, Kilroy-Silk would ask players whether they wished to "share" or to "shaft", with accompanying hand gestures. Kilroy-Silk's antics on the show were frequently lampooned by panelists on "Have I Got News for You" in late 2004, particularly his delivery of this tagline.

The show was axed after only four episodes, and was listed as the worst British television show of the 2000s in the "Penguin TV Companion" (2006). [ [ Racist stereotypes 'make the worst TV' - Telegraph ] ]

"Have I Got News For You"

Kilroy-Silk has appeared as a guest on Have I Got News For You on one occasion, on the episode broadcast on 30 April2004. The episode was notable for a heated exchange between Kilroy-Silk and his teammate Paul Merton, which resulted in Merton telling Kilroy-Silk to "shut up". It was later shown on disc 2 of "Best of the Guest Presenters" DVD release that Merton had actually said "shut the fuck up", but the profanity was removed via a careful edit. Kilroy-Silk has frequently been ridiculed in episodes of the show.

Other television appearances

On 31 January 2005, a television programme, "Kilroy: Behind the Tan", was broadcast on the BBC. The programme followed him from his election as an MEP for UKIP to his leaving and denouncement of the party.

In early February 2005, it was revealed that Kilroy was working on a new television programme called "Kilroy and the Gypsies", to be broadcast on Channel 4. In the programme, he spent a week living with a family of Romany Gypsies at a campsite in Bedfordshire and speaking also to residents of surrounding villages. [,,1411400,00.html]

He also appeared as a panellist on the BBC show "Question Time" where he discussed whether he was a racist or not. He stated that he abhorred the British National Party and then went on to talk about free speech.


Anti-Arab controversy

The BBC cancelled the "Kilroy" show in 2004 after an article entitled 'We owe Arabs nothing' by Kilroy-Silk [] was published in the "Sunday Express". The article had originally been published in April 2003 by the same paper and 'republished in error' according to Kilroy-Silk.Fact|date=April 2008 On its first publication the article did not attract the same furore from the national press or provoke any known disciplinary action from the BBC. Kilroy mistook Iranians for Arabs in the article.Fact|date=October 2008 One passage reads:

The article was strongly condemned by the Muslim Council of Britain and the Commission for Racial Equality, whose head, Trevor Phillips, said that the affair could have a "hugely unhelpful" effect. Faisal Bodi, a columnist for "The Guardian", called for Kilroy-Silk to be prosecuted for incitement to racial hatred. He said that Kilroy-Silk had written statements critical of Muslims in 1989, during the Salman Rushdie affair and in a 1995 article in the "Daily Express". [,11374,1120849,00.html] By contrast Ibrahim Nawar, the head of Arab Press Freedom Watch came out in support of Kilroy-Silk in a "Daily Telegraph" article, calling him "an advocate of freedom of expression" and saying that he agreed with much of what Kilroy-Silk had said about Arab regimes. []

There was speculation that the controversy could affect "Sunday Express" owner Richard Desmond's attempt to acquire the "Daily Telegraph", which was later dropped for unrelated reasons.Fact|date=October 2008

Labour MP Andrew Dismore asked why the BBC had disciplined Kilroy-Silk but had not moved against Tom Paulin after he had made allegedly anti-semitic remarks. The BBC's defenders pointed out that Paulin appeared on BBC programmes only as a pundit and commentator, and was not employed as a presenter of a programme in his own right. Subsequent to losing his permanent position, Kilroy-Silk appeared on BBC programmes in the same capacity as Paulin, as an individual commentator no longer representative of the BBC.

According to the "Daily Express", 50,000 people responded in a telephone poll supporting Kilroy-Silk's reinstatement.

On 4 December 2004 a man threw a bucket of farmyard manure over Kilroy before he was due to make an appearance on BBC Radio 4's "Any Questions?". David McGrath, from Wilmslow, Cheshire, was later convicted of the attack. He was given a conditional discharge, and ordered to pay £200 costs to Kilroy-Silk.

A spokeswoman for Kilroy-Silk told "The Observer", "He is not a racist at all - he employs a black driver," she told The Observer, a quote which is sometimes incorrectly attributed to Kilroy-Silk himself. [,6903,1120440,00.html]

Marks & Spencer

In February 2007, Kilroy accused Marks and Spencer, the UK clothing chain, of installing distorting mirrors in its ladies' changing rooms to produce a more flattering effect. Marks and Spencer denied Kilroy's claims, saying they were "at a loss as to what he might be referring to." []

Women in mosques

On the 13 February, Kilroy was interviewed on the BBC Radio 4 current affairs programme, the Today programme, and claimed that government should intervene against mosques that refuse to admit women.

Offices held


External links

* [ Kilroy quits as leader of Veritas]
* [ Independent profile / interview]
* [ "Kilroy-Silk quits 'shameful' UKIP"] at BBC News
* [ Profile at European Parliament website]

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