After months of dissatisfaction with the direction of the party and the UKIP Assembly group, I have announced my resignation from both today and issued the following statement to the media:
There are very few who will be surprised by my decision to leave. There are two main reasons for my departure.
Since the sight of Neil Hamilton, the unelected leader of UKIP Wales, standing with Gerrard Batten, the unelected national leader of UKIP, encouraging the odious Tommy Robinson into the UKIP fold against the wishes of the elected NEC, and the press release from Gareth Bennett enthusiastically endorsing Robinson’s membership application, I feared the voice of reason was fading in UKIP and the day may arrive when the party would become an organisation I could no longer stomach.
Then on Friday, Batten sent out an email telling us all that not only would Tommy Robinson be attending a UKIP organised rally and would be speaking at the rally, he would even be sponsoring the event. This elevates his involvement and status within UKIP exponentially.
UKIP used to be the party of the forgotten and it was of course the party of Brexit, but at the most crucial time for Brexit, when UKIP should have been holding Westminster to account for trying to thwart the referendum result, the party has been instead discussing individual politicians’ pet projects such as attacking Islam and abolishing the Welsh Assembly. Gareth Bennett, Neil Hamilton and Gerrard Batten are letting the people of Britain down.
Longstanding members worked exceptionally hard and made many personal sacrifices in the fight to free the UK from the EU, only to have an unelected leader try to hand UKIP’s megaphone to the likes of Tommy Robinson and then become his spokesman and prominent advocate. While it is clear that the UK needs a plan to defeat extremism and fundamentalism in all its forms and identities, I fear that the current UKIP leadership believes the best way to do that is to incubate and cultivate a rival fundamentalism. All sensible people know that route can never lead to the calm and peaceful nation we all want.
I still believe in the UKIP that I joined, that spoke for people whose pay was being held down by uncontrolled immigration and whose bills were being sent through the roof because of government and EU policy. UKIP won the people of Britain the right to choose whether their destiny lay with the EU or as a self-governing nation. But that isn’t the party I see around me anymore.
The other reason I have left the UKIP group is more to do with the Assembly group dynamic than the party as a whole. The group has not met since last September and there is no democracy, or communication from the group leader. I can safely say that Gareth hasn’t tried to have a conversation with me since last August, just after he became group leader. He made no effort to keep Caroline Jones in the group and was a key player in Mandy Jones’s exclusion from it.
The group does not function as a group but as a boys’ club – it is not by chance that the group no longer has any female members. It does nothing that is in the wider interest of party members or Welsh residents and seems to serve only to further the interests of certain group members.
For a party that prides itself on its democratic, libertarian ideals and respect for freedom of speech, it is ironic that behind closed doors, its leaders become autocrats as soon as they take up their positions.
Over the last few months I have felt increasingly uncomfortable speaking and voting on behalf of the UKIP group, when I have lost all respect for the party’s leadership on both sides of the border and have not been afforded any input into how the group should vote or the direction the group should take.
As a genuine Brexiter, I believe that decisions should be made as close to the people as possible, and I cannot remain in a group that is not only dysfunctional but is also determined to pursue a policy regarding devolution which runs counter to that principle.
I will remain an AM and, as an independent, I will be able to better serve my constituents than as a UKIP member, as I will not be tarred with the UKIP Group’s self-inflicted image as a sexist, self-interested “Gentlemen’s club”.