Wales politics

UKIP AMs divided due to being a bit excited, says new leader

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Media captionDiane James hopes to have a "happy bunch of Ukippers" by the time she leaves Cardiff

UKIP's new leader has tried to downplay divisions in the Welsh party, saying they were down to "people being a little bit excited".

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

Diane James told BBC Wales that she had inherited "a certain amount of disarray in Wales" but the party's AMs were "a superb bunch of people".

Ms James will meet them individually next Monday to try to heal rifts.

She said she would hold a "very, very grown-up conversation" with assembly group leader Neil Hamilton and would try to stop him using the "sort of language" he had used.

But she denied he had been replaced by a coffee break during the party's conference in Bournemouth.


Ms James, who replaced Nigel Farage last Friday at the event, will also meet Mr Gill.

She said that after Monday's one-on-one meetings she hoped she would have "a happy bunch of Ukippers" in Cardiff.

Speaking to BBC Wales ahead of Monday's meetings, she said: "I think what we're picking up on, in terms of your questions, is the legacy that I've inherited of a certain amount of disarray in Wales.

"I'm not going to try and cover that up but I'm here as the new leader, I've now been in post seven days.

"It's my opportunity by meeting with them all to see what we can do to heal any rifts, stop that sort of language that Neil's used.

"I haven't taken personal affront. I just put it down to, shall we say, people being a little bit excited at the moment."

Image caption Neil Hamilton was chosen by UKIP AMs to lead its assembly group, rather than UKIP Wales leader Nathan Gill

Asked if that meant she would read the riot act to the AMs, she said: "It's not my style to read the riot act if you don't mind.

"I'm sure we will have a very, very grown-up conversation, Neil and myself, and myself with the other Welsh Assembly members,

"Bear in mind I've asked each of them for one-on-one meetings so I'm anticipating that if need be we can lay all of our cards on the table, to use that metaphor.

"We can discuss the issues and I would hope that by the time I leave Cardiff I've got a happy bunch of Ukippers."

Mr Hamilton said he had been replaced in the party conference schedule by a coffee break and a speech by Mr Gill.

Ms James said: "I didn't replace him with a coffee break, if you don't mind.

"I actually re-jigged the programme quite substantially.

"Sometimes, Neil makes statements that possibly he would like to re-think in terms of what he said.

"But in terms of the decision I took, as the new leader, totally within my prerogative, I wanted to reorganise the programme, because the programme, the whole conference focus and emphasis was on the Brexit result, on the referendum for the United Kingdom including Wales to leave the European Union.

That meant, she said, that Mr Gill should give the speech.

She said of Mr Gill's decision to sit as an independent AM outside the UKIP group: "I support his decision. It is ultimately up to the individual what he or she is most comfortable with.

"He has not left the party. He is still the voice for Wales in the European Parliament in both Strasbourg and Brussels and he is our voice for the Welsh people and standing up for the Welsh people in terms of the Brexit decision."

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