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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

UKIP Welsh Assembly group erupts into open warfare

The new Welsh Assembly has not met yet and already the newly-elected UKIP group are fighting amongst themselves. By any measure yesterday's events in which Neil Hamilton ousted Nathan Gill as UKIP Assembly leader, are extraordinary, not just because of what happened but also how the key figures publicly reacted. Here is one twitter report:

Neil Hamilton is now entitled to an annual salary of £84,000 and has indicated that he will also be employing his wife. That is of course the rate for the job, though the Welsh Liberal Democrats opposed the salary rise that has just been introduced and would not have taken the extra money.

The new UKIP Assembly leader has a history. It may well be that is the reason why Farage is unhappy with this little coup. Hamilton is the man who walked away from a £10 million libel suit against the the Guardian in 1996. At the time the paper reported:

The Guardian stated on October 20, 1994, that Mr Hamilton had received thousands of pounds for asking parliamentary questions for Mohamed Al Fayed's Harrods group. Mr Greer, who had been retained by Mr Al Fayed, was identified as the middleman.

Another MP, Tim Smith, resigned his post as a Northern Ireland minister after he was accused in the same article of taking undeclared cash. He immediately admitted the Guardian story was true. Mr Hamilton, MP for Tatton, had instead tried to tough it out before resigning under pressure from Mr Major.

The settlement, on the eve of what was labelled the libel trial of the century, came after a dramatic weekend of legal developments. Those began when the government disclosed crucial documents to the Guardian. The papers led to Mr Greer and Mr Hamilton falling out, and a conflict of interest developing. Mr Greer's accounts were also in the newspaper's possession.

The Guardian also served on the men's lawyers three statements from employees of Mr Al Fayed. They said Mr Hamilton and Mr Greer regularly called for envelopes stuffed with £50 notes in return for parliamentary lobbying.

Alan Rusbridger, editor of the Guardian, said: "The decision by Neil Hamilton and Ian Greer must be one of the most astonishing legal cave-ins in the history of the law of libel."

Hamilton still maintains his innocence, but these things have a habit of resurfacing especially when the new UKIP group starts to act like all those other political parties they claim to be different from.

Putting a man with Hamilton's history at the head of their new group has destroyed in an instance any claim UKIP in Wales have of being different to the rest.
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