ROBERT Kilroy-Silk may have declined to take the UK Independence Party's whip in the European Parliament but that does not necessarily mean that he is already a spent force in European politics or, indeed, in the party he joined as recently as last summer. He will sit as an independent MEP but remain a member of UKIP. From that vantage point he will be well placed to observe how effective his former colleagues are in opposing all things European. If UKIP's alliance at Strasbourg with the racist League of Polish Families party proves to be as misguided as it appears, Mr Kilroy-Silk may yet be able to persuade the party in Britain that he could give it the politically sophisticated leadership that would ensure it a more significant presence on the British political scene. There is some truth in his allegation that “Not only do we have an invisible leader, we have incompetence on a large scale.” Before he became a TV chat-show star he was an effective Labour backbencher MP in the 1970s. However he needs to remember that he is no longer on TV and accordingly needs to scale down his act and his ego. He made a bad start in the European Parliament this week by trying to raise a point of order so insistently that he was threatened with expulsion by the president.

THE Conservative Party will have watched the comings and the goings of Mr Kilroy-Silk in Strasbourg with interest and perhaps some apprehension. A new opinion poll this week showed support for UKIP among British voters at 4 per cent, considerably less than it had at the elections last spring but still enough to affect results in many marginal seats.