Judging from the support that both Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless are enjoying at the moment people clearly think their actions have been courageous, moral and proper and that these attributes fit well with the principles of the ever growing people’s party.
Their defections have also been politically helpful to UKIP and damaging to the Conservative party at this particular point in the electoral cycle. It would be similarly encouraging, or even more so, were a Labour MP to also cross the floor in the near future and resign his or her seat as that would further underpin the growing acknowledgement that UKIP support is across the board and is seen as representing all people and adopting a political position that is neither left wing, right wing or centralist but all of these things, which means also that we are none of these things. Doing what is right seems to capture people’s imagination regardless of how each individual policy might be labelled by the press or our political opposition.
The unprecedented support for UKIP over the last year or so is underpinned by a common sense approach offering few favours to vested interests and driven by a groundswell that is desperate for honesty and fairness in our political system. It is critical that we retain that newness of approach and choose people to represent us who are not career politicians but exceptional yet ordinary people with ordinary people’s life and work skills.
Because of that we cannot become a Conservative Party Mark II.
I can understand the frustration of many MP’s on all sides. Most people don’t realise that outside of the children’s playground which is PMQ’s and the increasingly populist and everlasting cat fight in the media for short term points scoring, many MP’s do a fine job that is less visible to the general public. It can be a frustrating experience as government becomes more and more presidential with MP’s, (our representatives) being routinely ignored and simply there to vote as ordered regardless of their personal convictions.
In a place where one is effectively unable to represent one’s constituents properly and where it is difficult to reconcile that fundamental duty with the needs of the governing elite there is an attraction to move to a party that still retains such pure views. However, to materially change this one has to risk losing the privilege and enormous status of the position of MP. Despite the collective and disparaging view of MPs in general as portrayed by the media, on an individual basis it is a life achievement that carries with it considerable influence and status both personally and professionally which most are reluctant to relinquish.
The greater the popularity, support and electoral success of UKIP the more attractive it is for a sitting MP to take the plunge as the risk of them becoming disenfranchised diminishes with each seat that UKIP gains. With this lessening of risk comes a perception that ‘late comers’ might be wanting their cake together with its entire consumption and such a move may be seen as having slightly less integrity and being a little more calculating than were Douglas or Mark who chose principle over the unknown. Simply the more seats we take the less welcome and the less defendable would be the defection to UKIP of other parties sitting MPs.
UKIP garners significant support from the ‘People’s Party’ slogan coined most publicly by Nigel a while ago. It really connects and is a brilliant concept, not only because it used to be the mantra of the Labour party who threw it away by becoming detached from ordinary people, but because it is now a defining instance of difference between UKIP and everyone else. Yes, we might make mistakes, yes we aren’t as well organised, or have as much money, but we are the real deal and people warm to that and will support our principles and our party even when we get things wrong.
UKIP is for ordinary people, run by ordinary people and their candidates are ordinary people with exceptional skills, adopting a brief to represent the people as opposed to personal or party interests. It then follows that at some point dissatisfied MPs from any of the other parties, if continually welcomed and selected in preference to locally selected candidates, would seriously detract from the notion of ordinary people to represent ordinary people and there is clearly a point at which such defections would no longer further our support and may actually be counter productive.
The really interesting question is, therefore, at what point, might that happen?