WHEN Ukip won seven AMs in 2016's Assembly Election, which was held just weeks before the EU referendum, it was widely hailed as a major breakthrough for the party.

But the happiness soon soured, when Nathan Gill, who was a key figure in the election campaign quit the party, followed later by Mark Reckless.

But now, a year and a half later, Ukip has found its ranks boosted to the tune of one AM thanks to the most unlikely source - Nathan Gill himself.

As then leader of Ukip Wales and close ally of Nigel Farage Mr Gill was hotly tipped to be the default leader of its new Assembly group. But in a surprise upset just days after the election he saw the role snatched from under him by former Conservative MP and game show contestant Neil Hamilton.

Mr Gill, who has been an MEP for Wales since 2014 and took a decent chunk of the credit for the Leave campaign’s victory in Wales, had said before the election he would quit the European Parliament if elected as an AM.

But following the leadership upset he refused to do so, and quit the Assembly's Ukip group just two months after the election to sit as an Independent, although he has remained a party member in Brussels.

Since then he had faced a barrage of calls to resign from the remaining Ukip AMs.

Key to their argument was that Mr Gill was elected as a regional AM on Ukip's list.

In case you need reminding, the regional Assembly seats are elected through a party list.

Rather than voting for individual candidates, voters pick parties, with the number of AMs elected for each party depending on the share of the vote the party receives.

In North Wales Ukip won enough votes to appoint the top two candidates on its list - Nathan Gill and Michelle Brown - to the Senedd.

But following Mr Gill's resignation the party members argued voters had found themselves with an Independent AM when they had voted for a Ukip. Whatever you might think of Ukip politically, there's certainly something to be said for this argument.

But Mr Gill, who also had a notoriously spotty attendance record in the Senedd, steadfastly refused to shift, with Nigel Farage himself lending his support, calling him "one of the most honest and decent people that Ukip have ever had" and branded calls for him to resign "a disgrace."

Despite this barely a week has gone by without someone claiming the North Wales AM was on the verge of handing in his notice, intensifying in recent weeks thanks in no small part to some Twitter-based mischief-making by a Labour AM or two.

But the man himself repeatedly insisted he wasn't going anywhere.

Until last week that is, when he announced he was packing it in to focus on his duties as an MEP.

Perhaps slightly embarrassingly for Mr Gill himself the news was broken to the world at large not by the former AM himself, but by Plaid Cymru South Wales West AM Bethan Jenkins, who took to Twitter to announce presiding officer Elin Jones had written to AMs announcing Mr Gill's resignation.

The more cynical have suggested Mr Gill made the move because serving as both an AM and an MEP meant he would not be eligible for a hefty pay-off when the UK leaves the EU next year - claims he has strenuously denied.

But if anyone comes out of the bizarre situation well it's Ukip themselves, which has now found itself with six AMs - still down one from May 2016, but more than it had this time last month - with Mandy Jones, who was third on the party's North Wales list in May 2016, appointed automatically in Mr Gill's place.

They're still a minority in the Assembly, but the extra body could be just the clout Ukip needs to start making some real waves in Wales.

- The Assembly and Parliament have been off for Christmas these past few weeks. But, thankfully for bored politics reporters, everything's back to normal next week.