Rachel Johnson meets Ukip’s pin-up boy and finds to her horror that she likes him
In order to interview Robert Kilroy-Silk, the orthodontically perfect public face of Ukip, it is first necessary to talk to his people. But his people, it turns out, are his wife Jan. ‘So,’ Jan growls in what the BBC calls a lovely regional accent (though I am not good on accents, I know the Kilroy clan hails from Birmingham, where his grandfather was a roadsweeper, and his grandmother cleaned pub floors). ‘You want to write one of those fluffy articles, do you, about his orange face?’
I am already beginning to be a little scared of Jan, who is, I am told by several people — including Kilroy himself — ‘the brains behind the throne’. But I tell Jan honestly that I do not know what sort of article I shall write, because I haven’t spoken to my people yet, nor have I met her husband.
When I do, it is clear that what my editors want — and I should remind you that Kilroy’s lot are making life even more desperate for the Conservatives in the marginals, in the suburbs and, yes, even in true blue strongholds by offering a clear anti-European choice — is an unbiased report. ‘I want you to rip out his Aztec gizzard,’ instructs the editor of this, the Tory house mag. ‘I want you to show that he is an absurd person, grandiose in his ambitions, who has only managed to sew up the Poujadist vote,’ commands his deputy.
‘He’ll probably come over as plausible,’ reports the political editor, on his mobile from Bournemouth, where Ukip is not mentioned even once during the first day’s proceedings, as if the Ukippers were publicity-grubbing terrorists rather than the party which pushed the Tories to a humiliating fourth place in the Hartlepool by-election last week, and have decided to fight every seat next May.