Wales politics

UKIP candidate John Rees-Evans storms out of Newport meeting

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Media captionJohn Rees-Evans criticised one of his opponents during a radio debate

A UKIP leadership candidate has stormed out of a hustings meeting in Newport.

John Rees-Evans told people gathered at the meeting he was cautioned by a UKIP official for criticising another candidate.

He is one of four people bidding to take the helm of the party.

Mr Rees-Evans said: "I've been asked not to rock the boat. I'm not going to rock the boat. I'm going to let them do what they want to do. They want a nice decorous coronation."

After leaving, he said: "I didn't believe I had anything positive to contribute", adding the party did not want "contention" at the hustings.

"My own view is that the party is in dire straits and needs fundamental reform," he said.

The four candidates for the top UKIP job - ex-deputy leader Paul Nuttall and ex-deputy chairwoman Suzanne Evans, Welsh activist Mr Rees-Evans and London assembly member Peter Whittle - were due to debate with each other at the event on Thursday night.

The remaining three continued after Mr Rees-Evans left.

'A shame'

Mr Rees-Evans, who said he would not attend further hustings events but would tour the country instead, claimed he was cautioned by an official after he criticised Ms Evans on a debate on London radio station LBC.

UKIP chairman Paul Oakden said he cautioned all candidates "to make sure this leadership contest was contested in a fair and reasonable manner and not to attack each other personally.

"John clearly has taken that personally. I wouldn't say he stormed out. He decided not to participate any further."

Ms Evans added: "I think it's a shame that he didn't stay to debate us. I think members will draw their own conclusions from his inability to do that."

Christine Hamilton, the wife of UKIP Welsh assembly group leader Neil, said: "He's clearly not a serious candidate for the leadership of UKIP because if he was he would not have just walked away from a public meeting."

Image copyright Getty/AP/PA/BBC
Image caption The contenders (clockwise from top left): Peter Whittle, Suzanne Evans, John Rees-Evans and Paul Nuttall

Earlier, Mr Nuttall said there was nothing a new leader would be able to do to stop a ballot on whether Nathan Gill should continue to double job.

The party's National Executive Committee decided party members would decide on whether Mr Gill could continue to be an AM and an MEP but the ballot is yet to take place.

Speaking before the meeting, Mr Nuttall said: "It's a decision that has already been taken that it will take place. So there's nothing the leader can do about it, because I suspect by 28 November it will be well under way.

"On one level Nathan could give up one of his roles. Or on the other level the other assembly members make a decision and say it's fine for Nathan to double job until the middle of 2019."

Ms Evans said she would "absolutely prefer a grown up gentlemanly agreement," rather than resorting to a ballot.

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