WITH the process of the UK leaving the European Union underway, you would have though Ukip members and supporters would be walking on air.

So why is it the party seems to have been hit by setback after setback?

Blaenau Gwent has long been seen as one of the most Eurosceptic areas in Wales, largely put down to the high levels of poverty in the area. And last June 62.03 per cent of voters in the area voted to leave the EU - the highest level anywhere in Wales.

So it was shocking to see Ukip had not fielded a single candidate in the area for next month’s council election.

With a handful of council hopefuls running in all other areas of Gwent, even a couple in Remain-voting Monmouthshire, it’s a real surprise to see no-one was willing to step up in Blaenau Gwent.

Although a vote to leave last June wasn’t necessarily a vote for Ukip, this is a pretty shocking state of affairs which, for a brief period in the summer, seemed invincible.

And this isn’t the only speed bump Ukip has hit in the past week after South Wales East AM Mark Reckless defected to the Conservatives - the party he was originally elected as an MP for.

Mr Reckless was elected to Parliament as representative for Rochester and Strood in Kent in 2010, but left to join Ukip in September 2014. Although he won his seat back in a by-election two months later, he lost it to the Tories the next year.

Last May he was one of seven Ukippers to win seats in the Senedd, elected as AM for South Wales East. But last week he announced he was leaving to join the Assembly’s Conservative group, saying it was ‘job done’ for Ukip now Article 50 has been triggered.

Although flip-flopping between parties probably isn’t going to do anyone’s political reputation much good, it isn’t too much of a surprise to see Mr Reckless leave Ukip, a party he always seemed slightly out of place in.

Unfortunate moniker aside, Mr Reckless is pretty far from the party’s gurning former leader Nigel Farage and showboating boss of the Senedd group Neil Hamilton, who was less than a minute into his maiden speech in the Senedd before making a sexist comment about Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood and education secretary Kirsty Williams.

Rather the former MP Mr Reckless’ contributions to debate in the Senedd have been rather measured and he has most often seen speaking up when he believes the rules aren’t being properly followed.

Not everyone has agreed with everything he says, but as defections from Ukip go, the Tories could do a heck of a lot worse.

One person who will be particularly happy about the news will be leader of the Welsh Conservatives Andrew RT Davies, as Mr Reckless’ defection means the Tories overtake Plaid Cymru as second-largest party in the Senedd.

Although there is no formal official opposition in the Senedd, the second largest group has generally claimed the role, with the Tories now restored to the position they held in the previous Assembly.

Mr Reckless is the second Ukip AM to leave the party in less than a year, with the Senedd group dropping from seven to five after former Ukip Wales leader Nathan Gill left to sit as an independent after just three months.

And he’s got a point about ‘job done’ - leaving the EU has been Ukip’s sole focus since it was founded in 1993.

With Article 50 now in process, this is happening whether we like it or not.

So what exactly is the point of Ukip now?

Without the divisive but undeniably charismatic Nigel Farage at the helm, the party seems rudderless at a time when it should be capitalising on the momentum from the referendum.

It hasn’t been helped by its failure to find a decent replacement for Donald Trump’s pal, with Diane James lasting a grand total of three weeks in the hotseat, and her replacement Paul Nuttall so far proving little more than a pale imitation than the rabble-rousing Mr Farage.

The party needs to get a firm pair of hands on the steering wheel as soon as possible or risk losing all the momentum it has built up from the referendum.

l With local government election season in full swing, the Argus is on the lookout for interesting stories coming out of the campaign.

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