Douglas Carswell’s defection to Ukip is a serious blow to the Tory party. Unlike so many other defectors, Carswell is not off because he has an axe to grind. This isn’t about his personal prospects but policy.
What makes this defection all the more potent is that Carswell has been a major influence on contemporary Toryism. His Direct Democracy agenda is one of the more sizable parts of the whole Tory modernisation project and his Euroscepticism isn’t driven by some Pathé news view of Britain but by a view of how this country can succeed as a modern, free-trading nation. Indeed, the section in Carswell’s speech celebrating contemporary Britain is very Cameroon.
So, a Tory party that can’t keep Carswell in the fold has a serious problem. What compounds this for the Tories is that Carswell isn’t just defecting, he’s standing down to fight a by-election. This contest will highlight the divisions on the right and it’ll also likely result in Ukip’ first elected MP. Carswell is popular locally and the Tendring peninsula is a Ukip stronghold: in the Euros the party polled almost twice as many votes as the Tories.
If Carswell is returned to parliament as a Ukip MP, he’ll give the party a foothold in Westminster and the ability to stay in the news. He’ll also be a constant reminder of how divided the Tories are on Europe.
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