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Farage slams Ukip move to appoint Neil Hamilton as Welsh Assembly leader

Published 10/05/2016

The move caps a stunning political comeback for Mr Hamilton
The move caps a stunning political comeback for Mr Hamilton

Ukip leader Nigel Farage has blasted his own party's decision to appoint political veteran Neil Hamilton as its leader in the Welsh Assembly.

Former Conservative MP and one-time TV personality Mr Hamilton re-ignited his political career last week after winning a regional seat for the Mid and West Wales region in the Senedd.

And just five days after being elected, he successfully challenged Nathan Gill for the leadership of the party in the Assembly.

However, the news has not gone down well with party chief Mr Farage.

He said: "I have worked closely with Nathan Gill as leader of Ukip Wales. I have always found him to be hard-working, honest, and loyal.

"His removal after a successful Welsh Assembly election campaign is unjust and an act of deep ingratitude. In behaving like this, Ukip looks too like the other parties that we have fought so hard against."

Ukip's AMs met in Cardiff on Tuesday to decide who should lead them - with Mr Hamilton reportedly winning the contest by four votes to three.

Ahead of the result, he told the BBC's Daily Politics show that he did not expect the contest between him and Mr Gill to cause any problems for his party.

Former Tory MP Mr Hamilton, who was thrown out by voters in 1997 after becoming embroiled in the cash-for-questions controversy, said: "It's not a case of mounting a challenge against Nathan.

"We haven't had any Assembly Members in the past.

"We have to meet together, form a group and elect a leader of it."

Mr Hamilton was Conservative MP for Tatton from 1983 to 1997, but his career as a Tory minister was ended by the cash-for-questions affair.

He and his wife Christine later reinvented themselves as TV personalities, appearing on a variety of shows including Have I Got News For You, I'm A Celebrity ... Get Me Out Of Here! and Celebrity MasterChef.

However, Mr Hamilton decide to launch a political comeback with Ukip - which even raised eyebrows among party colleagues.

Mr Gill told an election debate in April that he probably would not have chosen Mr Hamilton as a Ukip candidate.

Mr Hamilton's wife Christine then hit back, branding the Mr Gill a "third-rate general".

Party officials say the decision to appoint Mr Hamilton as Assembly leader would not affect Mr Gill's separate position as leader of Ukip in Wales.

Ukip, which was originally against Welsh devolution until a recent policy U-turn, will be taking its place in the Assembly's Siambr for the first time tomorrow.

Its presence has not been met with enthusiasm from its political rivals, though - with some saying they were not looking forward to Ukip's presence in the Senedd.

However, Labour MP for Aberavon, Stephen Kinnock, reckons his party should not be worried.

Mr Kinnock, son of former Labour leader Lord Kinnock, said: "They (Ukip) will come under the microscope a lot more and people will see them for what they really are: a rag-tag bunch."

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