UKIP remains relevant and is “needed now like never before”, its leader in Wales has insisted ahead of the party’s annual conference in Newport.
UKIP has struggled badly since helping to secure a leave vote in the 2016 EU referendum.
Earlier this week the party’s newly-elected UK leader, Richard Braine, said he would not be attending the conference due to “low ticket sales”.
Party chair Kirstan Herriot described the decision as “an insult”.
Having come out on top across the UK in the 2014 European elections, UKIP finished eighth this time around, losing all its MEPs as the Brexit Party – led by former UKIP leader Nigel Farage – swept to victory, raising further questions about UKIP’s future and relevance.
However, ahead of the party’s conference at the new International Convention Centre Wales, UKIP’s leader in Wales Neil Hamilton said: “The political establishment continue to claim that UKIP is now irrelevant but, here in Wales, we’ve been proving them wrong.
“We stand up for the ordinary people ignored by the old parties,” the Mid and West Wales AM added.
“I have been leading the fight against all odds to recover our nation’s freedom.
“UKIP is needed now like never before. UKIP is the authentic voice of the people.
“We must unite to give them that voice. Brexit is more important than anything else or than any one individual.”
Along with the South Wales Central AM Gareth Bennett, Mr Hamilton is one of UKIP’s two remaining Welsh assembly members since the party won seven seats in 2016.
“We are less than two years away from the 2021 Welsh assembly elections which are a perfect opportunity for UKIP to make further inroads into the Welsh political scene and ensure that voices of reason and common sense are restored to the assembly ﬂoor through the election of additional UKIP assembly members,” Mr Hamilton said.
Ms Herriot said: “We’re incredibly excited to be holding our national conference in a brand new conference venue.”
Mr Braine entered a public row with the party’s ruling national executive committee (NEC) after he called for the cancellation of the event.
Earlier this week, Ms Herriot wrote to members criticising Mr Braine’s “regrettable decision not to attend our own conference due to low ticket sales”.
“Both I and the NEC believe it is a complete insult to the membership to attempt to cancel conference because of a potentially low turn-out,” she said.
“It is also a particular affront to hard-working regional, county and branch officers who have worked hard in encouraging members to attend conference to hear Richard lay out his vision for the future of UKIP.”
Mr Braine was elected UKIP leader last month following Gerard Batten’s resignation.
Mr Hamilton said it was “absurd” that Mr Braine was not attending the event.
“Richard is a novice and he has only been involved in politics a couple of years, he is almost completely unknown,” he told BBC Radio Wales Breakfast.
“This would have been a great opportunity for him to make himself known in Wales and he has turned it down for a totally spurious reason.”