Wales politics

UKIP's Neil Hamilton hopes new leader will end division

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Media captionNeil Hamilton: 'I think it is very perplexing'

The leader of the UKIP group in the Welsh Assembly hopes the election of a new party leader will bring an end to factionalism within the party.

Neil Hamilton told BBC Wales that he would support Diane James despite having voted for runner-up Lisa Duffy.

He said he hoped UKIP could "finally put to bed these personal animosities and personal differences" for the sake of the party's political objectives.

Mrs James has backed UKIP MEP Nathan Gill, who has left the assembly group.

Mr Hamilton said he was "disappointed" the new leader did not mention UKIP's achievements in Wales during her victory speech at the party's conference in Bournemouth on Friday.

"We had a great success in the assembly elections - we elected seven AMs, we are a big group and play an important role," he said.

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Image caption New UKIP leader Diane James says Nathan Gill has her "100% support"

UKIP Wales leader Nathan Gill - who lost a bid to lead the assembly group to Mr Hamilton - told BBC Wales he was "relieved" that Mrs James had been elected leader.

Mr Gill was one of the first people to greet the new leader as she arrived at the conference before being declared winner of the leadership election.

Mrs James praised him later at her first press conference as leader.

"Nathan Gill has my 100% support," she said.

"He's been a very, very valued member in the European Parliament and I trust him 100% in terms of his views and his commitment to UKIP."

Mrs James said she was happy for him continue to serve as a UKIP MEP while sitting as an independent AM in the Welsh Assembly.

It has also emerged that Mr Gill has replaced Mr Hamilton on the UKIP conference agenda for Saturday - sources close to Mr Gill told BBC Wales the decision had been taken by Mrs James.

Asked about his replacement on the agenda, Mr Hamilton said: "I am perplexed by it, and I think our party members in Wales will be even more perplexed by it."

He said a strategy of "alienating" the UKIP Assembly group would be "suicidal" for new leader Diane James.

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Media captionAlex Phillips says UKIP in Wales is 'a war zone'

Earlier, Alex Phillips, a former aide to the outgoing UKIP leader Nigel Farage, revealed she had joined the Conservatives.

Ms Phillips, who was UKIP's head of media for two years, said her former party was in a "catastrophic mess", but she would continue to work as an advisor to Mr Gill.

"I have a job to do and I am committed to doing that job professionally by offering objective media advice to Nathan as a professional individual," she told BBC Wales.

"We discussed my personal decision weeks ago and he was reassured that I, better than most, know UKIP's ideology inside out as well as being a veteran in dealing with political media and that this should not affect my ability to work for him.

"I am employed directly by him and not UKIP so this is not a matter for his colleagues in my former party."

Ms Phillips had been selected as UKIP's number two candidate on the South Wales Central regional list for the Welsh Assembly election but stepped down, saying at the time she would continue in her media role for the campaign.

In an interview with The Guardian Ms Phillips described Mr Hamilton as a "Machiavellian Rasputin character" always "lurking in the shadows" when crises erupted.

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Image caption Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage had appointed Nathan Gill as party leader in Wales

Mr Hamilton defeated UK Wales leader Mr Gill to become assembly group leader in May.

UKIP AM Michelle Brown told the BBC's Good Morning Wales programme Ms Phillips had given a "very creative description" of Mr Hamilton that was "not accurate".

"Neil's a hard working AM, he works as hard as the rest of us, if not harder," she said.

"He's very experienced, he was the best qualified person to lead the group."

The North Wales AM claimed Ms Phillips "obviously has some personal issue with Neil".

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