Wales politics

Welsh UKIP members to decide election candidate ranking

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Media captionNathan Gill says letting local members have the final say is a 'great move forward'

UKIP members will decide the final rankings of regional candidates for May's assembly elections after a row within the party.

Some local UKIP branches have raised concerns candidates from outside Wales would be imposed on them.

UKIP Wales leader Nathan Gill said the decision to give party members the final say was "a great victory".

Former Tory MPs Neil Hamilton and Mark Reckless will be among the names under consideration.

There have been allegations of splits within the party's top ranks over the issue.

In January, UKIP councillor Kevin Mahoney said he would quit the party if Mr Hamilton, Mr Reckless and Alexandra Phillips, UKIP's head of media in Wales, were selected on the regional lists.

Image caption Some UKIP members in Wales have objected to Mark Reckless and Neil Hamilton (inset) potentially being selected

Opinion polls suggest UKIP is likely to win seats in the assembly for the first time at May's elections.

Applications to be regional candidates are narrowed down to a shortlist. Party members then decide the order that those candidates are listed for the four seats in each of the assembly's five regions.

Mr Gill told BBC Radio Wales: "It's gone back to the grassroots, it's gone back to the membership. We have had a great victory here.

"I think it's up to the members to decide for themselves who they want to represent UKIP in Wales."

UKIP leader Nigel Farage said: "I have long argued that the UKIP members in Wales should get the final say on who represents our party in the Welsh assembly elections.

"These elections in May are our best opportunity to make a breakthrough into UK domestic politics."

Analysis by Nick Servini, BBC Wales political editor

This is the first time Nathan Gill has spoken publicly about his "big battle" with the party's national executive committee over the selection of regional candidates.

It's difficult to argue with a system that means local party members will have the final say over who tops the regional list.

If Neil Hamilton and Mark Reckless are as unpopular with local party members as some have been saying, then presumably they won't be anywhere near the top of the list.

Nathan Gill has been claiming victory. But bearing in mind this is a party that likes to take the moral high-ground in being above all a grassroots organisation, is it a battle it should have been having in the first place?

Behind the scenes, this has been a damaging row internally for UKIP in Wales. The party will be hoping the decision will heal some of those divisions.

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