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

March 9, 2017

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.

A UKIP spokesman in the assembly said: “We wish Chris Smart well in his future endeavours. We continue as a party to work hard for the people of Wales.”

The spokesman said it was “always sad to see any member leave the party”.

Former Tory assembly candidate Mr Smart has been chairman of UKIP’s Bridgend branch since he defected in 2013.

But he has now written to the party’s UK chairman, Paul Oakden, to tell him he is quitting.

Mr Smart 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 and his feud with the party’s only MP, Douglas Carswell.

Mr Carswell is due to open a UKIP office in Pontypool on Thursday.

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

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.

Mr Smart declined a request for a television interview, saying he did not want to criticise the party.

“I wish them all the best,” he added. “I just don’t feel comfortable at the moment with what’s going on.”

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Paul Oakden says Wales will be included in changes to UKIP’s internal structures

Mr Oakden said later that UKIP would undergo a restructuring that will include 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.

Neil 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 [the party’s UK leader] 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.”

Sam Gould, UKIP’s former campaign chairman in Wales and a party candidate in May’s local election, said: “Traditionally, campaigns for the council elections have been run by local branches.

“What we need now, more than ever, is for people to come forward and stand for the party.”

9 March 2017 | 2:03 pm

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