Wales politics

Identity of UKIP aide's boss disputed at employment tribunal

Image caption Robin Hunter-Clarke was UKIP's chief of staff in Cardiff Bay

"Can you go to the employment tribunal?" I was asked.

Not a question that filled me with unrelenting joy I must admit.

But as it happens this particular tribunal was rather intriguing.

Comings and goings in the assembly UKIP group will be a module in political undergraduate courses in years to come, but the latest saga reached court number seven in Cardiff magistrates' court today.

Not quite the High Court, where former UKIP leader Neil Hamilton spent many a day in the 90s, but here he was all the same; quoting from Magna Carta and brimming with the confidence of a QC.

The facts are as follows.

Mr Hamilton's right hand man was Robin Hunter-Clarke, or to give him his official title "chief of staff".

When Caroline Jones ousted Neil Hamilton as UKIP's assembly group leader in May Mr Hunter-Clarke was sacked two weeks later.

Today he started what looks like a very long journey in a claim for unfair dismissal.

All rather uneventful stuff.

But at the heart of this is the question of who actually employed Robin Hunter-Clarke.

Image caption Neil Hamilton is bidding to regain the group's leadership

Here's a summary of the legal arguments.

Robin Hunter-Clarke and Neil Hamilton argue that Caroline Jones is the employer because under the terms of the contract he's employed by whoever happens to be the UKIP group leader.

Mr Hamilton further argues that the Assembly Commission, the body that runs the institution, is an associate employer because it drafts the employment contract, and supplies his assembly pass and computer etc.

Caroline Jones says Mr Hunter-Clarke's employment came to end when Mr Hamilton ceased to be leader because Mr Hamilton's name is on the contract of employment.

And the Assembly Commission says nothing to with us guv. It claims to have a "supportive and facilitative" role with AMs' staff but nothing more than that.

Image copyright Welsh Assembly
Image caption Caroline Jones sacked Mr Hunter-Clarke two weeks after becoming group leader

It matters because hundreds of staff work for assembly members but as of tonight I can't tell you who they work for.

Neither could the judge. She said that every employee needs an employer but it was not known today who the employer was in this case from the four possible options or combinations.

It will be a matter for a later hearing, which will no doubt interest anyone working for a political party in the assembly.

As of today, Robin Hunter-Clarke lost his case for interim relief which means he won't be paid by whoever employs him up until the case is complete.

The judge ruled he failed to satisfy the tribunal that his claim would be likely to succeed.

Let's just hope we have more joy in finding out who really was his boss.

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