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Robert Michael Kilroy-Silk (born 19 May 1942) is a British politician, independent Member of the European Parliament and a well-known presenter of his former daytime television confessional talk show Kilroy. Onetime university lecturer and Labour Party member of Parliament (MP), he more recently 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[edit]


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).

Twenty years ago Robert Kilroy-Silk, then an MP, fathered a child with Hilary Beauchamp, an art teacher.[2]


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

Political career[edit]

Labour MP[edit]

He was a Labour MP for Ormskirk from 1974 to 1983 and for Knowsley North from 1983 to 1986. 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. One documented assault was on left-wing Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn, by Kilroy-Silk himself.[1]

UK Independence Party[edit]

Candidate in European Parliament Elections[edit]

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 system of PR) was as follows:

Party Votes (Percentage)
Conservatives 371,632 (26.39%)
United Kingdom Independence Party 366,498 (26.05%)
Labour 294,918 (20.96%)
Liberal Democrats 181,964 (12.93%)
British National Party 91,860 (6.53%)
Green Party 76,633 (5.44%)
Respect - The Unity Coalition 20,009 (1.42%)
Independent Candidate 2,615 (0.18%)
Independent Candidate 847 (0.06%)

MEPs elected:

Seat Number Name Party
First Seat Roger Helmer Conservative
Second Seat Robert Kilroy-Silk UKIP
Third Seat Phillip Whitehead Labour
Fourth Seat Chris Heaton-Harris Conservative
Fifth Seat Derek Clark UKIP
Sixth Seat Bill Newton Dunn Lib Dem

Leadership Ambitions[edit]

In the 2004 Hartlepool by-election UKIP came third, ahead of the Conservative Party. At the party conference in October 2004, Kilroy-Silk called for the Conservative Party to be "killed off". 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 EGM 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.

With his attempt at the leadership going nowhere, in late 2004 and early 2005, there was speculation that Kilroy-Silk would leave UKIP and either found a new party, or join an existing one with similar views. The English Democrats party stated that it would be a natural home for the pro-English, anti-European politician. However, unable to find a party who would allow him to be leader, he found that his only option would be to set up his own party.

On 20 January 2005, Kilroy announced that he had left the UKIP after nine months as a member. It came after party officials started proceedings to remove Kilroy-Silk as he became increasingly frustrated with their approach. Rumours were abound that he was planning on setting up a new party under the name "Veritas", though Kilroy-Silk initially neither confirmed nor denied them.


On 30 January 2005, the plans to launch Veritas were confirmed, and boosted by the announcement 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 (Leicestershire). Kilroy-Silk's former colleagues in UKIP gave the new party the nickname "Vanitas". In the 2005 general election, Kilroy-Silk contested the seat of Erewash, but came fourth, barely keeping his deposit.

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". [3]

On 29 July 2005, Veritas announced the resignation of Kilroy-Silk as Party Leader. [4] In his resignation statement, he said: "It was clear from the general election result - and more recently that of the Cheadle byelection - 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[edit]

As of January 2006, Kilroy-Silk remains a member of the Veritas Party, but sits as an Independent MEP. Many Veritas Party members question this and are asking Patrick Eston, leader of the Veritas Party, why Kilroy-Silk is allowed to continue his party membership. [5] Kilroy-Silk continues to sit in the European Parliament despite having been elected as a member of UKIP under the party list system, and there have been calls for him to resign his seat so that it can be returned to a UKIP member.

Marks & Spencer[edit]

Kilroy has recently 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." [6]

Women in Mosques[edit]

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.

Media career[edit]


His show Kilroy started on 24 November 1986 as Day To Day and ran until 2004, when it was taken off-air after the controversy over an Express newspaper article.


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 frequenlty venerated 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).[2]

Have I Got News For You[edit]

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". Kilroy-Silk began repeatedly interrupting Merton's explanations in an odd-one out round. The clue was that T.E. Lawrence, Wilson, Keppil and Betty, had dressed up as Arabs, so Merton began speculating that Kelvin McKenzie must have dressed up as an Arab at some point, to which Kilroy-Silk replied "why should he?"[7]. It was later shown 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. It is perhaps for this reason that he has since become better known as a figure of fun who is often ridiculed on the show.

In addition to the constant broadcasting on Kilroy-Silk delivering the Shafted tagline, there was also great delight taken in a clip of Kilroy-Silk's angry reaction to being squirted with water by a voter during an election campaign, and also a clip when Kilroy-Silk asked a voter who had stated that he would be returning back to his home country in a few months "why not now?" After this clip ended, Paul Merton stated: 'There's never a bucket of shit around when you need one, is there?'

Other Television Appearances[edit]

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 the UK Independence Party through to his leaving and denouncement of the party. During this programme, he incorrectly referred to Iranians and Afghans as Arabs, when the reporter, Emeka Onono pulled him up on this, he replied, 'nobody is nowadays!'.

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. Andrew Lansley, Conservative MP for South Cambridgeshire, said: "Is there nothing Robert Kilroy-Silk won't do for publicity? I don't know why he is doing this but it is certainly not to highlight solutions to the problem."

In the programme, he spent a week living with a family of Romany Gypsies at a campsite in Bedfordshire to gain first-hand experience of their way of life and talking both to the Gypsies themselves and to those in the surrounding villages. [8]

As well as these he also appeared as a panellist on the BBC show 'Question Time' where he got into a debate about whether he was a racist or not. He stated that he 'abhorred the BNP (British National Party) and then went on to talk about free speech.


Anti-Irish Controversy[edit]

In 1992 Kilroy made a comment regarding Ireland and the Irish in his Daily Express column under the guise of attacking Ray MacSharry, a former Irish government minister and EU commissioner at that time. He dismissed Ireland as a 'country peopled by priests, peasants and pixies'. The Daily Express was forced to apologise to MacSharry and the Irish people in general as a result [citation needed]. This episode is surprising considering Kilroy is himself of Irish extraction [citation needed].

Anti-Arab Controversy[edit]

His show Kilroy started on 24 November 1986 as Day To Day. It ran until 2004, when the programme was cancelled by the BBC after an article entitled 'We owe Arabs nothing' by Kilroy-Silk[9] was published in the Sunday Express on 4 January. The article had originally been published in April 2003 by the same paper and 'republished in error' according to Kilroy-Silk [10], although during its first incarnation the article failed to attract the same furore from the national press or provoke any (ostensible) disciplinary action from the BBC. (Kilroy has mistaken Iranians for Arabs in the article and in a BBC Hard Talk interview, erroneously associated with Afghans, demonstrating - according to critics like Emeka Onono - a general ignorance about Arabs [11]). One passage in the article reads

The article was strongly condemned by the Muslim Council of Britain and the Commission for Racial Equality. Trevor Phillips, the head of the CRE said that the affair could have a "hugely unhelpful" effect. Faisal Bodi, a columnist for The Guardian, wanted Kilroy-Silk prosecuted for "incitement to racial hatred". In an article entitled 'Islamophobia should be as unacceptable as racism' [12], he attacked Kilroy-Silk for his criticism of Islam after the proclamation of the death sentence on Salman Rushdie:

However, Ibrahim Nawar, the head of Arab Press Freedom Watch came out in support of Kilroy-Silk in a Daily Telegraph article [13]

At the time, there was speculation it could affect Sunday Express owner Richard Desmond's attempt to acquire the Daily Telegraph, though Desmond later dropped the bid for unrelated reasons.

Labour MP Andrew Dismore asked why the BBC had disciplined Kilroy-Silk but had not moved against Tom Paulin, the poet and Oxford professor, 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.

His personal assistant, Hilary Hunter, who precipitated the whole row by sending the old article into the Express, did her best to repair the damage. "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 himself.[14]

The story is related in Chas Newkey-Burden's book Great Email Disasters.

Alleged Attack[edit]

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 a supermarket in Erewash 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 of the incident. The police decided not to prosecute.


  1. ^ Robert Chalmers "Interview: Here Comes Trouble", Independent on Sunday, 6 June 2004. Retrieved on 4 May 2007.
  2. ^ [1]

External links[edit]

Offices Held[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Harold Soref
Member of Parliament for Ormskirk
Succeeded by
constituency abolished
Preceded by
new constituency
Member of Parliament for Knowsley North
Succeeded by
George Howarth

[[Category:1942 births]] [[Category:Alumni of the London School of Economics]] [[Category:Members of the United Kingdom Parliament for English constituencies]] [[Category:English television presenters]] [[Category:British television presenters]] [[Category:Living people]] [[Category:Members of the European Parliament from the United Kingdom]] [[Category:Veritas politicians]] [[Category:UK MPs 1974]] [[Category:UK MPs 1974-1979]] [[Category:UK MPs 1979-1983]] [[Category:UK MPs 1983-1987]] [[Category:People from Birmingham, England]] [[Category:People of Irish descent in Great Britain]] [[Category:Leaders of political parties]] [[pl:Robert Kilroy-Silk]]