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Tensions continue amongst Welsh Conservatives over decision to allow Mark Reckless to join

Credit: ITV News

Tensions continue amongst Welsh Conservatives over the decision to allow a UKIP defector to join the Assembly Group.

Mark Reckless has joined the group but won't become a member of the party. There's been public and private criticism of the move but sources close to the leadership say all AMs backed it.

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  1. Nick Powell

Fresh speculation about Tory leader's future

A file picture of Theresa May's Joint Chief of Staff Nick Timothy Credit: PA

Reports that Conservative Assembly Group staff were sent home early today led to speculation that Welsh leader Andrew RT Davies was meeting Theresa May's Joint Chief of Staff Nick Timothy. That's denied by official Welsh Conservative sources.

MPs who've criticised Mr Davies' decision to allow UKIP defector Mark Reckless into the Tory Group have been confident that they have the support of Downing Street. ITV News understands that at least one AM is preparing to mount a leadership challenge next week. Mr Davies appeared unconcerned tonight.

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UKIP's Mark Reckless rumoured to be quitting party

There's speculation tonight that a leading UKIP Assembly Member is about to quit the party.

Mark Reckless is a former Conservative MP. Credit: PA, Anna Gowthorpe

Mark Reckless, who is a former Conservative MP, is rumoured to have held talks with Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies which could see him sitting as an independent but voting with the Tories in the Senedd.

Mr Reckless hasn't responded to calls today and a UKIP spokesperson refused to comment.

A Welsh Conservative spokesperson dismissed the claim as 'all speculation and unsubstantiated' and added that there are 'no changes to the group.'

However other sources simply say that Mr Reckless hasn't been accepted as a member, leaving open the possibility that he could take the Tory whip but sit as an Independent AM.

There's speculation that his attempt to join the Welsh Conservatives was blocked by the party's UK leadership.

Mr Reckless is a close ally of the MP Douglas Carswell who recently quote UKIP to become an Independent MP.

The party's former leader Nigel Farage has told the Telegraph:

'I will be very sad to see the back of him. Unlike Mr Carswell I have always thought him an honourable person. I'm sure the pressure on him has been enormous over the last week.'

UKIP's former leader in Wales, Nathan Gill, also sits as an independent AM although he remains a UKIP MEP.

The party won seven seats in the Assembly in 2016.

  1. Nick Powell

Carwyn Jones announces plans for smacking ban after slap-down for UKIP

Carwyn Jones' nomination as First Minister was briefly delayed while the Presiding Officer heard objections from the UKIP AM Mark Reckless. He argued that Plaid Cymru should not be allowed to withdraw the name of its leader, Leanne Wood, without a further vote. But Elin Jones ruled against him.

Carwyn Jones said there would be no new legislation in the next hundred days, whilst the Assembly develops new procedures in line with the Labour-Plaid Cymru agreement. However he said there would in due course be a new law put forward to ban parents from hitting their children. It would abolish the defence of "reasonable chastisement". Carwyn Jones also said there would be a new Public Health Bill, replacing the one that was defeated at the end of the last Assembly. He did not say if it would include a fresh attempt to restrict the use of e-cigarettes.

Wales does not want for ambition. Wales does not want for brilliance. And if the last few days are anything to go by, Wales does not want for excitement either. It is our job, collectively, to make real that ambition. To turn that brilliance into sustainable success and growing prosperity for all. And where we have excitement, let’s make sure it comes with results. We have given the media, the Welsh historians, and the commentariat plenty of what they want – theatre and intrigue. It is time now to give the Welsh people what they want, and expect. Good governance, delivery and respect.

– First Minister Carwyn Jones AM