Another standoff between Nigel and Carswell. For a time, I thought Nigel might be preparing to leave UKIP, that his pride would force him to, having publicly declared Carswell must go. A UKIP with Carswell still in and Nigel out would not be viable. I felt that the legal niceties were irrelevant to the politics which appeared to be that Carswell must go. But, on LBC a few nights ago, Nigel was emphatic that he would not leave UKIP, that forming a new party was wrong. Taking him at his very public word then Carswell need not be expelled, and cannot be on inconclusive, private correspondence, just to keep Nigel in.
Yet Carswell is a problem. When he tweeted a smiley face on learning of Nigel stepping down as leader – what did he think he was doing? It cannot be that he was too thick to see that ordinary Kippers would be offended by that self-indulgent act. It must be therefore that he simply does not care about offending ordinary Kippers. For that tweet, he should have been taken aside and given a stern warning. Would you or I be allowed to insult, provoke and taunt the ordinary membership? When it comes to Nigel, Carswell is showing himself to be incontinent, unable to refrain from tweeting “Knight night” after the email fiasco.
Is he, as Aaron Banks exclaimed at Doncaster 2015, semi-autistic, just unable to empathise with party members and see the hurt he causes? If he does see it then why do it? Should the party send him for psychiatric therapy, for losing self-control whenever Nigel’s name comes up? But if we allow that he is fully responsible and accountable for his actions, and so deliberately or recklessly provoking the membership, then why haven’t the leadership, of leader, Chairman and NEC, taken him aside?
Carswell cannot go on inflaming the members, ignoring their feelings and indulging his own antipathy to Nigel publicly. Yes, there is free speech, Carswell is entitled to his opinions, but he lives on UKIP’s dime and he needs to respect that. A great number of Kippers are upset by his mocking and sneering tweets and remarks. Does the leadership share his disdain for ordinary Kippers? If they fail to reel him in then a conclusion that they do will be unavoidable.
Carswell defected to save his seat (No 1 likely to fall to UKIP had he stayed Tory at the 2015 GE) and to go from obscure backbencher no-one had heard of (or was ever likely to) to a national figure invited onto Question Time and interviewed frequently by the press. What has he given back to the party in return? Search in vain for speeches in the House promoting or defending UKIP!
I suspect the real reason for his indifference to members’ feelings is that he is not indifferent at all. He actually needs ordinary Kippers to complain about him as part of what is, in Tory terms, virtue signalling. His real allegiance, his comfort zone, is Tory MP friends. He signals every time that he has not really left, that he is not truly UKIP but semi-detached, that like them he is part of the anti-Farage establishment. He joined Vote Leave at the outset, as did Suzanne Evans, a group hostile to Nigel and UKIP. His emailed quip that perhaps Nigel could be rewarded for `services to headline writers’ was as much for his Tory friends as for winding up ordinary Kippers.
This view is supported by the action of Tories. Just before the General Election Cameron was reported as saying, in relation to Mark Reckless, who really did defect to UKIP completely, that he really wanted to get that [insert a very un-parliamentary term beginning with f and ending with r], but no such ire was shown toward Carswell. Indeed, relations between Carswell and Tories are all too friendly, especially with Daniel Hannan, a graceless leaver who refuses to acknowledge Nigel. At a meeting at Hammersmith Town Hall before the Referendum, Hannan was on stage with Lord Owen. Owen made a very gracious speech praising UKIP for its part, saying that it was not racist but a genuine grassroots movement that he was happy to campaign alongside. Hannan was asked to comment but shook his head. No way would he acknowledge UKIP yet alone praise it. That’s who Carswell signals to. Yes, they believe we should leave the EU, but not to the extent that their personal comfort is ever to be at risk by stepping outside their true tribe’s norms. Neither merit any respect from us.
Carswell’s indifference to ordinary Kippers may also reflect that by 2020 he does not expect or plan to be defending Clacton under a UKIP banner. If he did he would not want to alienate UKIP activists. In July last year at an event in the centre of London to debate the various forms of Brexit (supposedly), Carswell effectively disavowed UKIP in order to ingratiate himself before what was a 99%, middle class remainer audience – in a debate chaired by the Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland to give you the flavour. But his views are self-servingly false.
Instead of endlessly complaining about Carswell the leadership should allow us to debate him, to expose the denial about UKIP’s part in Brexit, to challenge his fantasy version of history, to give the lie to the media fed drivel about nativists and racists.
Provided he now stops sneering at ordinary Kippers, stops taunting Nigel and his supporters, then nothing need turn on his presence in our party (if Carswell can be said to be in our party) and we avoid the unseemly and unpredictable fallout from trying to expel him. Having an MP, even one and even just him, gets us media representation rights.
We cannot currently get rid of Carswell in any way that would keep the party out of the High Court – he will be too careful not to provide any killer evidence. We therefore can debate him – not that the leadership will allow anyone articulate to do that! – or just ignore him provided the leader, the Chairman, and the NEC act as one in explaining to Carswell that he must never, ever again hold the members in contempt with corrupt virtue signalling to his Tory mates. If we are not to be forever up and down the Sisyphean hill with Carswell, then Nuttall, Oakden and the NEC must reel him in. He must virtue signal to his true tribe wholly in private. Tell him to never sneer or mock again. And bloody well mean it!