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Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Are UKIP the most dysfunctional Welsh Assembly group ever?

Having secured the election of seven Assembly Members in 2016 it did not take long for UKIP to start falling apart. Right at the beginning of the session there was a coup during which Neil Hamilton ousted the party's Welsh leader from fronting up the group.

Nathan Gill subsequently left the UKIP group and sat as an Independent before he decided that he would rather concentrate on being an MEP and resigned from the Assembly altogether. There are many who say that he will not be missed due to his erratic and infrequent appearances in the Senedd.

And then the now six-strong UKIP group lost a second member as Mark Reckless defected back to the Conservatives.

So it must have been a relief to the remaining five members when Nathan Gill's resignation saw his replacement by another UKIP member. A fresh start? One would think so, alas it was not to be.

As the Western Mail report, Mandy Jones, the new North Wales UKIP AM, lasted just hours as a member of her party's Assembly group. Instead of welcoming her with open arms, Neil Hamilton and his little fan club put out a statement claiming that Ms Jones had chosen to employ people who “are either members of, or have recently campaigned actively for, other parties, or both” and that as such she was not welcome to join them.

Mandy Jones own account of the rift highlights the UKIP group's paranoia. She says she was given a two-hour ultimatum to sack her staff or be excluded, only finding out when she was handed a press release during a meeting with Assembly Presiding Officer Elin Jones:

She said she was “shocked, upset and appalled” to be told that she should dismiss the staff members previously employed by Mr Gill.

A former shepherd and the mother of four grown-up children, Ms Jones, who lives near Corwen, said: “Nathan Gill contacted me a while ago and told me that he intended to resign his seat and that under Assembly rules I would take over.

“I then had a dinner in north Wales with Neil and Christine Hamilton. They were charming, but it was mentioned to me that I shouldn’t reappoint Nathan’s staff and that they would help me to get staff of my own.

“I was very conscious of the fact that I needed people to help me through the transition. Assembly officials told me that Nathan’s staff members had a good work ethic. I was happy to take them on to help me. Otherwise I would have been totally unsupported.

“I couldn’t believe it when I was given an ultimatum. Before the group meeting on Monday evening the other Ukip AMs were all friendly towards me, so I wasn’t prepared for the nastiness. I didn’t sack the staff in line with the ultimatum, but I only found out they had excluded me from the group during a meeting with the Presiding Officer Elin Jones when I was shown the statement. I was shocked, upset and appalled.

“My politics haven’t changed, but after their behaviour I wouldn’t want to work with such a bunch of people. All my energy will be put into representing the interests of the people of North Wales.”

The UKIP Assembly group must surely now have the prize for the most dysfunctional sitting in the Senedd. It is difficult to see what they have achieved other than to squabble amongst themselves.
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