New UKIP head Neil Hamilton faces tussle as deposed leader claims he still has the top job

Neil Hamilton. Picture by Derek Bennett (CC BY 2.0).

There is confusion about who is the real leader of UKIP after Neil Hamilton’s right to be the party’s head was challenged by his predecessor.

Freddy Vachha was elected leader of the UK Independence Party in June, but the party’s website now lists Neil Hamilton as UK Interim Party Leader, as well as leader, and spokesman, of UKIP Wales.

Freddy Vachha is now arguing that the Party Chairman, Ben Walker, had no right to remove him under the party’s constitution.

“The Leader of UKIP can only be removed by resignation, death, by the members following a further democratic process or, in exceptional circumstances, by the elected NEC,” Freddy Vachha said.

“The Party Chairman is a mere appointed functionary, he has no lawful power per se to remove the Leader.

“[Party Chairman] Mr Walker did not have the power to remove me.  Even if he was the Party Chairman at the time – and he wasn’t.

“At a validly convened and conducted quorate meeting of UKIP’s National Executive Committee which took place on 29 August 2020, I proposed that my choice as UKIP Party Chairman of Marietta King be approved.

“An overwhelming majority of the eight voting NEC members in attendance (all members were invited) confirmed my appointment, thus replacing Ben Walker as Chairman.”

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‘Unanimous’

UKIP said that Neil Hamilton had been temporarily appointed leader of the party in the United Kingdom pending a formal complaint against Freddy Vachha.

Suspension from party membership automatically suspends Mr Vachha from the Ukip leadership.

In a statement, the party said: “It would be unfair to Mr Vachha to give further details of the allegations against him prior to the conclusion of the judicial process. This will be conducted formally, impartially and subject to the rules of natural justice.

“Ukip’s National Executive Committee met on Saturday and unanimously resolved to appoint Neil Hamilton MS, leader of UKIP in Wales and a Member of the Welsh Parliament, to act as interim leader of UKIP in the United Kingdom.”

Mr Hamilton is at least the seventh person to lead UKIP since Nigel Farage stood down from the role in 2016 following the EU referendum.

UKIP won 13% of the vote and elected seven members – including Neil Hamilton – at the 2016 Welsh Assembly election, a month before the Brexit referendum.

Since then members have left the Senedd, or now sit as independents or members of the Brexit Party. One MS, Gareth Bennett, represents the Abolish the Welsh Assembly Party.

Neil Hamilton represents Mid and West Wales in the Welsh Parliament.

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