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Mark Reckless takes leading role in UKIP Wales

Mark Reckless (left) pictured with Nigel Farage during the election campaign Photo: PA, Gareth Fuller

The former UKIP MP Mark Reckless is to take on a leading role in the party's campaign to win seats in the National Assembly for Wales.

He's been appointed Director of Policy Development for UKIP Wales, a role that will see him writing the party's manifesto for next year's Welsh election.

Mark Reckless occupies the post within the party at a UK level but at a meeting of UKIP General Election candidates in Port Talbot he told me that Wales will be his priority with him spending part of each week here and working with a full time policy development officer.

The party in Wales sees the appointment of Mark Reckless as a sign of how seriously it's taking the 2016 election. He's a big name within UKIP, having defected from the Conservatives in September 2014. He stood down as MP for Rochester and Strood and won it in the subsequent by-election, but lost it in May's UK Election.

Mark Reckless and Nathan Gill at a meeting of former UKIP candidates in Port Talbot Credit: ITV News, Adrian Masters

In another move towards a more professional operation in Wales UKIP has announced the creation of a second paid official post here. Sam Gould, who stood for the party in Caerphilly in May will be Campaign Manager for the Assembly election.

Party leaders have also announced that the selection process for regional list candidates will be handled centrally by a committee appointed by the National Executive Committee.

UKIP's best chance of winning Assembly seats is via the regional list so those candidates will be put through a tougher selection process and assessed throughout the campaign.

That could be seen as taking decisions over candidates away from the party membership, something I put to UKIP's leader in Wales, Nathan Gill MEP.

The 2016 Welsh election presents UKIP with its best-ever chance of winning seats at a national level.

A sharp rise in the number of votes UKIP won in May saw the party placed third in Wales. It came second in 2014's European Parliamentary election, narrowly missing out on beating Labour into first place.

That level of support and the proportional nature of the regional list system means that it stands a very good chance of returning a handful of AMs to the Senedd. Mark Reckless told me that that prospect increases the sense of responsibility.

Today's announcements show an increasingly professional party operation in Wales and one that's determined to play a bigger and perhaps permanent rôle in Welsh politics.