Wales politics

Mark Reckless UKIP switch leaves Tory AM 'unsure of status'

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Media captionMonmouth AM Nick Ramsay said he has been left confused by the changes

The defection of a UKIP AM to the Welsh Conservatives has left a Tory AM feeling "unsure of his status".

A row has broken out after Mark Reckless joined the Conservatives, despite rules stating only party members can be in the assembly group.

It caused Monmouth AM Nick Ramsay to ask: "Am I a member of a Welsh Conservative group or am I a member of some kind of hybrid independent group?"

Welsh leader Andrew RT Davies said the constitution had not been suspended.

Mr Reckless defected from the Conservatives as Rochester and Strood MP in 2014. He became the UKIP AM for South Wales East in May 2016 but quit UKIP on Thursday to rejoin the Tories.

Speaking on BBC Radio Wales' Sunday Supplement programme, Mr Ramsay said: "It has raised as many questions as it has answered and from my point of view, I think we need clarification on this because I think confusion will otherwise arise.

"We now have a member in the Conservative group who is not a member of the party - now that is a strange situation."

Image caption Andrew RT Davies said Mark Reckless was 'a fit and proper person to vote with and work with the Conservative group'

Contradicting what his party leader earlier insisted, Mr Ramsay said the party's constitution "had to have been suspended in some shape or manner".

He also said a Wales Office minister would not be willing to meet with the Welsh Conservative group with Mr Reckless in it.

A UK Conservatives source has told BBC Wales that Tory AMs had put their positions "in jeopardy" by allowing Mr Reckless to join them.

Earlier this week, Mr Davies said there was "unanimous agreement" among his group "that Mark was a fit and proper person to vote with and work with the Conservative group in the assembly".

He added: "I accept some MPs, because of historical arrangements and historical actions by Mark, feel aggrieved by Mark's actions, but he has not applied to join the party."

However, two senior grassroots Tories in South Wales East also told BBC Wales they were happy with the decision to bring Mr Reckless into the group.

Mr Ramsay also raised concerns about the impact this would have on the party at the polls: "Are we a Welsh Conservative group that can go into a future assembly election and campaign on one united platform? Clearly that is not the case."

Analysis by BBC Wales political editor Nick Servini

A number of Welsh Conservative MPs have criticised the decision to allow Mark Reckless into the Tory fold at the assembly, but this is the first time someone within the group has done so.

Nick Ramsay believes the Conservative group in Cardiff Bay will not be able campaign in unity in future or discuss confidential party matters with the new member.

There has been nothing official from Andrew RT Davies, but his supporters have questioned why Mr Ramsay did not make his concerns more apparent at the time.

This story has thrown up a strange mix of the ins and outs of the party rulebook and old-fashioned Tory tribal antagonism towards Mark Reckless, because of his defection two years ago.

Senior Conservatives at Westminster do not want a high-profile row with party colleagues in Cardiff, and that is why they are not speaking publicly now.

But behind the scenes, they hold the view that Andrew RT Davies has entirely misjudged the mood of the party if he thinks he can make this work.

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