Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Kilroy not to stand?

Despite media speculation that Kilroy-Silk will be the UKIP candidate for the Hartlepool by-election, it is now almost certain that he will not be standing. Party officials are already looking for another “high profile” candidate to front their campaign.

What is not certain is whether Kilroy-Silk jumped or was pushed, although it is known that Party leaders were reluctant to call on the charismatic former TV presenter, for the very reason that he might win. Kilroy-Silk as UKIP's first MP would be in such a powerful position that he would be able to dominate the Party and sideline its present leadership.

If there had been a serious expectation that he would stand, the Party in any event did not seek to encourage him. Already, the core of the campaign team has been set up in Hartlepool, without consulting Kilroy-Silk, who is currently "on holiday" in his Spanish home. Yet it has already been reported that Kilroy would have made choosing his own team a condition of his candidature.

Furthermore, it is not exactly a coincidence that, while the assembled media were – and still are - waiting for a statement from UKIP on its candidate for the Hartlepool by-election, the Party should come storming out with a statement... about its strategy for the general election.

Writ large in The Times today, and followed up by the BBC, was a story headed "UKIP will not stand against anti-EU Tories" describing how UKIP had promised to give a clear run at the next election to Conservative candidates who back withdrawal from the EU. All they have to do is sign a letter supporting the UKIP's policy of pulling Britain out. "We are going to give Michael Howard one hell of a headache," said Nigel Farage, leader of the Party's EU parliamentary group.

This demonstrates clearly that the Party focus is not – and never has been - on Hartlepool, but is set on more distant objectives. In fact, in the absence of Kilroy-Silk at the helm, senior party officials have already abandoned any ambitions of winning the Hartlepool seat.

The lack of enthusiasm for staging a high profile fight also reflects the fact that Hartlepool is traditionally a Labour seat, where the Conservatives would expect a poor showing. For, while UKIP presents itself as anti-EU, it is, as this Blog has previously observed, primarily an anti-Tory grouping. With no Tory "scalp" to win, the party is more interested - using its own terms – in "making mischief" in the Tory Party.

It also explains why the Party was reluctant to fight the recent by-elections at Hodge Hill and Nottingham South, which were also held by Labour.  Even the chance of a Westminster seat, giving UKIP and the Eurosceptic movement a voice in Parliament, holds little appeal, especially when its representative would be difficult to control.

Not for the first time, therefore, UKIP seems to be putting its own internal party interests above those of the cause it purports to represent.

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