HOT OFF THE WIRE

UKIP boss Gerard Batten calls for assembly abolition poll

UKIP boss Gerard Batten calls for assembly abolition poll

  • 9 October 2018
Image caption Gerard Batten said a referendum was "the way forward"

UKIP's UK leader has called for a referendum on whether the Welsh Assembly should be scrapped.

Gerard Batten's remarks endorse the position of Gareth Bennett, UKP's assembly leader elected in the summer.

Mr Bennett's vow to campaign for the assembly's closure is not shared by everyone in his group.

Speaking in Cardiff after meeting UKIP's four remaining assembly members, Mr Batten denied he was taking the UK party in a more extreme direction.

Difficulties among the party's AMs has seen their numbers fall from seven in May 2016 to just four, with former leader Caroline Jones exiting the party most recently.

Mr Bennett wants a referendum on the future of the assembly, but that has been opposed by David Rowlands and Michelle Brown, the latter of published at the weekend arguing that campaigning to abolish the body would harm the party.

  • Outspoken AM voted UKIP assembly leader
  • Bennett bids to lead UKIP assembly group

In an interview with BBC Wales the London MEP said Mr Bennett's views on the assembly "are his opinion. It isn't party policy at the moment".

Image caption Gareth Bennett has called for a referendum on the assembly

But he said: "One of the things we're going to do is we're going to have a conference of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and our members of the London Assembly, to decide what the way forward is.

"Should we have a national policy, should we have different policies in those different areas of the United Kingdom."

"One of the ideas that's coming up is that we could campaign for a referendum, so that people actually get to decide whether they want to keep the assemblies or the parliaments or not.

"If we did that, members of the London Assembly, members of the Welsh Assembly would be free to campaign on either side of the argument.

"I'm happy with whatever the Welsh people decide. If they decided if they want it to continue or abolish it, I would be happy with that because it's a democratic decision.

"I think a referendum would be the best way to go forward," he added.

'When people haven't got a case they call people names'

Mr Batten reiterated calls for Ms Jones to resign and said Mandy Jones - who is a UKIP member but not in the party group - should also quit if she will not join the group.

Mr Batten has made controversial comments about Islam and has called for far-right activist and former English Defence League leader Stephen Yaxley Lennon, also known as Tommy Robinson, to be allowed to be a member of the party.

Caroline Jones had left the party saying that it was moving too far to the right for her, raising concerns about both issues.

"When people haven't got a case they call people names," Mr Batten said.

"It's only because of the mad world we live in now that somebody who holds the views that I do can somehow be described as far-right", he said, claiming that Mr Yaxley-Lennon is not on the far-right.

At the time of Ms Jones' decision to quit UKIP a senior source in the party said they expected Michelle Brown to go next.

Mr Batten said Mr Bennett should keep Ms Brown in the group: "I want the group to stay together."

He said he did not see anything in Tuesday's meetings with AMs that suggested that this would not happen.

There are no plans for what would be a third referendum on Welsh devolution.