New UKIP assembly leader 'amicable' with Neil Hamilton

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-politics-44163181

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The new UKIP leader in the Welsh Assembly, Caroline Jones, says her takeover from Neil Hamilton has been "amicable".

The AM for South Wales West took over from the former Tatton MP on Thursday, amid reports of heated rows between the members of the five-strong group.

But Ms Jones told BBC Wales that she and Mr Hamilton will work together and have not had a "cross word".

He will remain UKIP's Wales leader, she added.

"I don't think it will be confusing," she said.

Ms Jones became leader on Thursday after a majority of the group's AMs voted Neil Hamilton out.

Who voted for who has not been confirmed but it is understood that David Rowlands and Michelle Brown had been backing the leadership change, leaving Gareth Bennett as the only AM who wanted Neil Hamilton to continue.

Ms Jones said: "Neil and I have not had a cross word and we will be working together".

"Neil will concentrate on being Wales leader and I will concentrate on the assembly.

"We'll do it as a joint venture, it's a win-win situation. You have a man who is the leader in Wales and a woman who leads in the assembly - that will make us appeal to a wider audience".

Analysis by Nick Servini, BBC Wales political editor

Caroline Jones will not go into the recent tensions within the group other than to say it was time for a change.

She has stressed the importance of having a woman at the helm - which suggests she believes there has been a serious problem with the image of the party under Mr Hamilton.

Caroline Jones now has a big job bringing people together, and arguably an even bigger job bringing some kind of credibility to a party in Cardiff Bay often portrayed as a taxpayer-funded soap opera.

Meanwhile Ms Jones has said that Mandy Jones, an independent AM who was refused entry to the UKIP assembly group despite being a party member, could be welcomed back to the fold if she is interested.

The North Wales AM entered the assembly in December after former UKIP Wales leader Nathan Gill resigned from the institution.

Ms Jones, who has described herself as a follower of former UKIP leader Nigel Farage, was told in January that she could not be in the group unless she fired her staff.

Ms Jones said: "The door is open to Mandy Jones - it would be nice if we could amalgamate and she joins the group".

Sources have said that Mandy Jones is not interested, although one has suggested that the prospect had not entirely been ruled out.