What happens when a politician that you believe in enough to vote as your local MP changes his political party? Do you go with him? Do you vote for the same party?
This morning Nigel Farage called a Press Conference in London, claiming he was to make an important statement. In this press conference, Farage almost immediately handed over to Douglas Carswell, Conservative MP of Clacton, who announced that he had resigned from his elected post in favour of representing UKIP. This shocking news means that the constituency of Clacton will be facing a sudden by-election, in which Douglas Carswell will represent the UK Independence Party.
Mr Carswell had been a part of the Conservative Party for his entire adult-life and had not been a hot-head in this time. He himself admitted that his defection hadn’t been an “easy decision”. He also praised members of the party for wanting the best for Britain and truly caring, but his main motive seemed to come from a lack of faith in David Cameron and the “front bench duopoly”. In an interview outside of the press conference this morning, he spoke of the leaders of the main two parties; Ed Miliband and David Cameron. Carswell made the point that Miliband admits what David Cameron will not; that he doesn’t want real change. Carswell seemed to believe that his defection to UKIP will result in “increasing the chance of real change” and that Cameron, who claims that he “isn’t serious about it” . In the statement, Carswell said:
“The problem is that many of those at the top of the Conservative Party are simply not on our side. They aren’t serious about the change that Britain so desperately needs.”
The shocking UKIP switch may come as little surprise to some; the BBC described Carswell as a “Eurosceptic” (BBC News) – a term given to a collection of Conservative politicians who are more active in calling for a change to Euro-policy. Carswell also features on the home page of the ‘Better Off Out Group’ (betteroffout.net/) as a supporter and the pages quote the MP as saying, “I believe in an independent Britain – Britain would be better off out of the failing European Union. It’s time to campaign for an independent Britain.”
It would appear that the Carswell was tired of tirelessly campaigning without sufficient support from the senior members of his party and so has moved to a party that actively fight for independence. It would be interesting to see if Carswell’s Conservative ideas will help make UKIP more attractive to those followers of the party who had been against the party in the recent general election. Mark Wallace (Executive Editor of Conservative Home) admits that there are “some ideological differences” between Carswell and UKIP that could lead to improvements within the party.
Even some of the party are not surprised to hear the news; fellow Tory MP Mark Pritchard claimed that “Carswell had been flirting with UKIP for some time” in an interview as response to the change. Pritchard did not criticise him too heavily, as many Conservative MPs and followers have done.
Similar to Pritchard, Mark Wallace stated that he is filled with “sorrow” as opposed to anger over the decision of the politician making “the wrong decision”. Though some were more critical of the now ex-Tory;
William Hague strongly criticised Carswell, saying that only the Conservative party can deliver a referendum in the EU (Sky News). Hague argued that Carswell was being “counter-productive” and Mark Wallace restored faith in the Tory party by stating that he too wants “us to leave the European Union” (Sky News).
Carswell admitted in the press conference that he had not discussed the matter with David Cameron, and Farage almost smugly joked “I wouldn’t worry Douglas, I’m sure he’s watching this live” (Sky News). This could mean that some of the things said about Carswell could come from the pure shock of the news.
The MP had won the Clacton vote in the 2010 General Elections with 22,867 votes, his nearest rival being Ivan Henderson of the Labour Party with just 10,779 votes Carswell. A 53% landslide victory that year means that a personal victory in the by-elections could easily land UKIP a seat in Westminster, even with just over half of the 2010 Tory vote.