I am one of many who has goaded Douglas Carswell on both Twitter and his Daily Telegraph blog posts into jumping ship to UKIP, to which there has been a deafening silence of response over the last 18 months. And, through all that time, as was reported later on in the PM news on Radio 4 tonight, it was the “best kept political secret…ever” – a quote from a UKIP spokesman in Brooks Mews. So, I apologise to Douglas Carswell for that, now we know of the long and considered process he went through before defecting.
And he has done it in such an honourable way, forcing a By Election at the same time. Others have defected and retained their positions, only for the electorate to boot them out at the next General Election. This of course puts the election in the realms of chance, although early Bookies’ odds favour him, with Paddy Power putting him at 1 to 4 on – an almost “dead cert”.
The most notable MP defection case so far was Bob Spink (Castle Point MP, Essex) who resigned the Conservative whip in March 2008, and in April 2008 defected to UKIP, becoming that party’s first and only MP. However, in November 2008 he was re-designated as an Independent, on the grounds that UKIP had no ‘whip’.
At the 2010 General Election he stood as an Independent (with a “Green Belt” campaign label), but he made it clear he was supporting UKIP and UKIP supported his campaign. The results were:
|Spink, Bob||Green Belt||12,174||27.04|
And, yesterday, on Radio 4’s PM they make reference to UKIP’s failure to win earlier By Elections against some pundits’ predictions of a UKIP win, almost as if the BBC were saying that it isn’t going to happen this time, either. However, the long Radio 4 news item on the topic is worth listening to, here from 5:35 to 16:40, and it includes these highlights:
- The thoughts of one Tory activist who wasn’t sure what she was going to do, but she did praise him as a very good constituency MP
- At 10:20, Cllr Jamie Huntman, UKIP’s lead in Essex County Council and the UKIP County Organiser for Essex talking of more possible defections at Councillor level.
- At 11:50, the previously selected Clacton UKIP PPC for the May 2015 election, Roger Lord.
- Followed by Jacob Rees-Mogg, another Tory Eurosceptic, who is infamous for his proposals of pacts between UKIP and the Conservatives.
The interview of Roger Lord showed him to be quite adamant that he was the PPC. However, he had missed the point that UKIP’s own rules allow headquarters to over-rule a branch’s General Election choice when it comes to a By Election. He has also had a bullish piece in the local paper.
However, let us take a look at it from the point of view of the psephology of Douglas Carswell’s constituency. He won with a massive majority in 2010, taking 22,867 votes, more than 12,000 ahead of his Labour rival – UKIP did not stand, but tacitly supported Douglas as a leading Eurosceptic, so we can assume 1000-2000 of his votes (then, in 2010) were those who would have voted UKIP. In the 2014 Euro election results UKIP gained a massive majority of nearly 10,000 over the Conservatives in the Tendring District Council (62% of which is Carswell’s Clacton constituency) of 19,398 over 9,981. And in the 2013 County Council elections, UKIP’s Roger Lord won Brightlingsea (50% in the Clacton constituency) and Andrew Erskine won Tendring Rural East for UKIP with the party coming 2nd in all the other divisions.
One can clearly see things were limbering up for a close run fight between Roger Lord and Douglas Carswell on 7 May 2015. Carswell clearly calculates he can keep enough of his vote to be re-elected. Anecdotally, in a number of media reports there are those who will vote for him personally, those who will stick with the Conservatives, and others who would vote for him now he is UKIP rather than Conservative. The balance of evidence points to him winning, but it is never a given and a week is long time in politics.
This has been a long time maturing, and clearly both Nigel Farage and Douglas Carswell have had to pick the right moment to “come out”. And, in my humble opinion, they have picked the right moment. UKIP have continued to maintain their opinion poll returns, there is little negative reporting on the party at present, our MEPs have got their feet under the table, our new spokesmen are active, and inexorably the mood of the nation is slowly moving UKIP’s way with the events going on in The World, Europe and the UK. There was even a news announcement yesterday on increased immigration from the EU (that could have been part of the calculations) and the rolling stone of the Rotherham sex-grooming scandal is gathering a lot of moss now, all in UKIP’s favour.
Let us all get behind Douglas Carswell’s campaign for Clacton, the By Election date looking like being 9th October. Of all the Conservatives who might have defected to UKIP, he is by far and away the best, his motives will be right, for the good of the country, and we must do all in our power to help him win the support of the people of Clacton and become our first real (and very effective) voice in Parliament.