Wales politics

UKIP unravelling, says Welsh ex-chairman as he quits party

Chris Smart
Image caption Chris Smart said he cannot see UKIP Wales' local election campaign "getting off the ground"

UKIP's ex-chairman in Wales has left the party, saying it is "unravelling".

Chris Smart, appointed acting chairman of UKIP's Wales committee last summer, has said he wants to rejoin the Conservatives.

He raised questions about the strength of the party's operation as it approaches May's local elections.

UKIP assembly group leader Neil Hamilton said he had some sympathy with Mr Smart's frustration but denied the party was unravelling.

Mr Hamilton said people might have thought "we were making a film called Carry on UKIP last year", but he hoped to see the party making "rapid strides forward" under new leader Paul Nuttall.

"I have got a bit of sympathy with him [Mr Smart], but in Wales we are moving forward," Mr Hamilton said.

He said he hoped Mr Smart would rejoin UKIP.

Image caption Arron Banks (right) has said he could stand against Douglas Carswell at the next general election

Former Tory assembly candidate Mr Smart had been chairman of UKIP's Bridgend branch since defecting in 2013.

He told BBC Wales he was disappointed the party had failed to resolve the row about its former Welsh leader Nathan Gill, who doubles up as an independent AM and a UKIP MEP.

He was also disappointed by UKIP donor Arron Banks's feud with the party's only MP, Douglas Carswell.

The party is "unravelling, I would suggest", Mr Smart said.

He said UKIP had no full-time officers in Wales, with local elections less than two months away.

"I can't see it [the election campaign] getting off the ground to be honest," he said.

"From the experience I have had in our branch when I talk to people about being councillors there I don't find much enthusiasm for that," he added.

UKIP won two seats at the last council elections in 2012 but has lost them both - one councillor died while another left the party in a row over assembly candidate selection.

Image caption Paul Oakden says Wales will be included in changes to UKIP's internal structures

Mr Smart's announcement came on the day Mr Carswell opened a new party office in Pontypool.

Mr Carswell denied claims he had lobbied against a knighthood for ex-party leader Nigel Farage.

"I didn't express a view at all," he said.

UKIP chairman Paul Oakden said UKIP would undergo a restructuring, including changes in Wales, and also appoint a Welsh local election campaign co-ordinator this weekend.

UKIP does not formally exist as a separate party in Wales and does not have a Welsh leader.

Mr Hamilton leads the six-strong UKIP group in the assembly.

"We're going through this process of reorganising nationally and that includes Wales - it won't be left behind," Mr Oakden said.

"Paul Nuttall has some very clear ideas about how the party will be restructured.

"That's going to involve me meeting with people in Wales to discuss structures and so on."

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