Wales politics

UKIP's Neil Hamilton denies bullying 'big boy' Nathan Gill

Neil Hamilton Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Neil Hamilton suggested he was not capable of bullying Nathan Gill

Neil Hamilton has denied bullying "big boy" Nathan Gill during a row which has seen the UKIP Wales leader quit the Welsh Assembly group to sit as an independent AM.

A rift emerged in May after Mr Hamilton was chosen by a majority of UKIP's new seven AMs to lead them in the Senedd.

Mr Gill then faced party calls to quit his European Parliament seat to focus on his assembly role but he refused.

He will continue both roles but work independently in the assembly.

On leaving, Mr Gill said infighting had become a distraction from the group's work, but he insisted he was not leaving the party and would remain a UKIP MEP.

But Sam Gould, who works for Mr Gill, said the Senedd group was "toxic".

Mr Gould, chairman of UKIP's Caerphilly branch, told BBC Radio Wales Mr Gill had been "bullied by those within the party hierarchy of the National Executive Committee and by one or two individuals within the assembly group".

He said Mr Gill could "still support and lead the members here in Wales" but would no longer be associated with "what has become quite a toxic, infighting group in the assembly" when he would like to focus on Brexit.

Image caption Nathan Gill says he will be an independent AM but remain a UKIP MEP

While Mr Gill led the campaign which saw UKIP's first AMs elected in May, five of them - including Mr Hamilton - called him to honour his pledge to give up his seat in the European Parliament if elected to the assembly.

Mr Hamilton dismissed suggestions he was bullying one of the tallest politicians in Cardiff Bay.

"He's a big boy," he told the Good Morning Wales programme. "I am 67-years-old and Nathan is six foot six. How realistic is it for me to bully him?

"We have a serious dispute which is, I think, of great importance to the integrity of UKIP that we have somebody who claims to be the leader of UKIP in Wales who was elected on a promise of being a full-time AM who has gone back on his word.

"All we're trying to do is to hold him him to the promise that he himself made to UKIP members who selected him as a lead candidate for the election, and to the people of his region in north Wales [and] the people of Wales in general that he would be a full-time AM if he was elected."

Mr Hamilton said that Mr Gill was no longer UKIP Wales leader, a title bestowed on him by former party leader Nigel Farage, but UKIP has yet to clarify the position.

The decision by Mr Gill to go independent in the assembly also raises questions over whether a vote will take place by UKIP members in Wales who are due to decide if he should keep his two elected roles, or face expulsion from the party if he refuses to give one up.

UKIP-GILL FALLOUT

  • May 2014 - Nathan Gill is elected an MEP as UKIP comes second in the European election in Wales
  • Sept 2015 - Some UKIP members in Wales are unhappy that "outsiders" such as Neil Hamilton and Mark Reckless apply to be list candidates for the 2016 Welsh Assembly election
  • Feb 2016 - Candidates call for Mr Gill to resign for "lack of leadership" during a selection row
  • March 2016 - Membership ballot results put Mr Gill and Mr Hamilton among those chosen as lead candidates
  • May 2016 - UKIP wins seven assembly seats with 13% of the vote
  • May 2016 - New AMs choose Mr Hamilton rather than Mr Gill to be their group leader
  • June 2016 - Britain votes leave in EU referendum. Mr Hamilton calls on Mr Gill to stop 'double jobbing' and step down as an MEP as he promised
  • July 2016 - UKIP national executive committee tells Mr Gill to quit one of his two jobs or face expulsion, but Mr Gill refuses, accusing his critics of malice
  • Aug 2016 - Mr Gill is temporarily expelled, but reinstated pending a vote by Wales members on his future
  • Aug 2016 - Mr Gill announces he is leaving UKIP's assembly group to sit as an independent AM but will stay on as an MEP
  • Aug 2016 - Mr Hamilton denies claims of bullying Mr Gill

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