Ukip AMs gearing up for Welsh leadership contest
THREE of the five remaining members of the Ukip group at the National Assembly will be contesting its leadership in a ballot open to all the party’s members in Wales.
Caroline Jones – who ousted her predecessor Neil Hamilton in May – has confirmed that she will stand as a candidate.
Mr Hamilton and Gareth Bennett have already said they will stand.
Announcing her decision to participate in the election, Ms Jones said she would avoid creating controversy “for the sake of being controversial”.
The ballot of members was called by Ukip’s central leadership in a bid to halt infighting in the Assembly group.
Ms Jones said: “I offer a positive approach towards politics in the Assembly. I work hard in my community.
“I’ve never been negative in the Assembly. I work collaboratively with other parties because, to be truthful, we’re never going to take the Assembly. We’re never going to have a First Minister of Ukip.”
She added: “I hope people look at me and think I have honesty and integrity, respect and dignity for everyone.
“I have never made unpalatable comments in the Assembly of a personal nature, although I always look at the politics.”
Her statement was a barely concealed attack on Mr Hamilton, who at one of the first meetings he attended as an AM two years ago described Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood and Liberal Democrat AM Kirsty Williams as “political concubines” when they permitted the re-election of Carwyn Jones as First Minister.
Ms Jones said she opposed Mr Bennett’s view that the Assembly should be abolished.
“I honour the people’s vote for the Assembly,” she said.
But she added: “I don’t think it’s the time to be talking about having more AMs. We are in times of austerity.
“That view I have put across quite strongly.”
Ms Jones said she would “always be a member of Ukip” and would stay even if either of her rivals won the leadership ballot.
“I would never throw my teddy out of the pram if I didn’t win anything,” she said.
A result is due before the end of July, but as yet a detailed timetable for the contest has not been announced.
There are thought to be between 800 and 1,000 members of Ukip in Wales.
At the Assembly election in 2016 the party won seven seats, all on the regional lists elected by proportional representation.
The number was quickly reduced to six when MEP Nathan Gill was ousted from the leadership in a vote confined to group members.
Saying he could not work with Mr Hamilton, he sat for a time as an Independent at the Assembly, before resigning. He remains a Ukip MEP.
Mr Gill’s successor from the party’s regional list was Mandy Jones, but she was not admitted to the group because she insisted on employing some of Mr Gill’s staff who had joined the Conservative Party.
Mark Reckless left the Ukip group to sit as an Independent, although he is a member of the Conservative group.