Wales politics

UKIP's new leader Diane James to meet divided AMs

Diane James Image copyright PA

New UKIP leader Diane James will meet the party's assembly members to try to end the in-fighting that has dogged the group since May's election.

UKIP Wales leader Nathan Gill now sits as an independent AM, while rival Neil Hamilton leads UKIP's assembly group.

On being elected leader on Friday, Ms James removed Mr Hamilton from the Bournemouth party conference programme.

She gave the slot to Mr Gill instead, saying he was a "very, very valued" MEP and had her "100% support".

UKIP won seven seats at the assembly election, entering the Senedd for the first time.

In a statement, Ms James said: "I am well aware of the differences within the group which regretfully and inappropriately seem to be aired all too often publicly.

"My intention is to meet with the Cardiff AMs to identify and understand their concerns and issues.

"UKIP has achieved huge success in Wales this year and we also should not ignore the overwhelming support that Brexit had in the principality.

"I want to see this success and support built upon going forward and hence my meetings with the members will be the first step towards this goal.

"Wales should be a blueprint for UKIP electoral success - it is my intention to make it so."

Ms James is due to visit the Senedd at the end of September.

'Sole purpose'

Meanwhile, Mr Hamilton has accused Mr Gill of "fawning" over Ms James since her election.

"He's a political limpet and about as lively," Mr Hamilton told reporters in Cardiff Bay on Tuesday, adding that the UKIP group had unanimously supported his leadership in a vote of confidence on Monday.

"I'm confident I have the support of the overwhelming number of branches in Wales" he said.

Mr Hamilton described his relationship with Ms James as "cordial" and said he was not apprehensive about her visit to the Senedd.

"We operate in the assembly as an independent group in the sense that we are not a party group, we are a group of assembly members formed under assembly rules, not UKIP rules," Mr Hamilton insisted.

"So there is no way the party can change the arrangements here in the assembly, which is the sole purpose of our daily life," he said.

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