Wales politics

UKIP 'burka ban' policy 'got in way' of other issues

Neil Hamilton
Image caption UKIP should be anti-Islamic extremism, not anti-Islam, says Neil Hamilton

UKIP's election manifesto pledge to ban full-face veils worn by some Muslim women "got in the way" of other issues, Neil Hamilton has said.

The party's leader in the assembly said he was unhappy with the policy because it "blanked out everything else" in UKIP's general election campaign.

He said it would now be part of a post-election "policy review".

Former leader Nigel Farage has warned UKIP against becoming "anti-Islam".

UKIP is about to embark on its third leadership election in a year after Paul Nuttall resigned following the party's disastrous general election result.

It won no seats and saw its share of the UK-wide vote fall from 12.5% to 1.8%.

Speaking at a news conference in Cardiff on Tuesday, Mr Hamilton said the party needed to be "anti-Islamic extremism", not "anti-Islam".

He said one potential leadership candidate - "Sharia Watch" pressure group founder Anne Marie Waters - had some "odd" views.

Ms Waters was blocked from standing for UKIP at the general election in June, with Mr Nuttall saying her views made him "uncomfortable".

Mr Hamilton said: "I personally was unhappy about the burka policy that emerged during the election campaign because it was the first policy pronouncement that was made in the campaign and it completely blanked out everything else.

"Actually this is a peripheral issue.

"I supported the party's policy, I defended it.

"It wasn't something which I personally would have given the prominence that it had as I don't believe it's the central issue.

"And I think it's a distraction from the real issue. It got in the way of what I think were more important issues.

"It is current policy of UKIP but after every general election there's a policy review."

Image caption Plaid AM Rhun ap Iorwerth had nominated Leanne Wood for first minister in May 2016

Reflecting on UKIP's first year in the assembly, Mr Hamilton said he regretted Plaid Cymru's decision to support Carwyn Jones's re-election as first minister in May 2016 after initially putting forward its leader Leanne Wood for the role.

"Plaid Cymru offer no real opposition because they will always back the Labour government on things that really matter," he said.

"They should have blocked the reappointment of Carwyn Jones and a Labour government last year but they bottled out at the end of the day.

"What a change that would've brought to the culture of politics in Wales if, however unstable you might've thought a coalition of the Tories, Plaid Cymru and UKIP might have been, it would've been a decisive shift to take the power of patronage, in particular, away from the Welsh Government upon which they rely in order to maintain their hegemony."

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