The Tory whips have just sent their line-to-take on Douglas Carswell to MPs. Seen by Coffee House, the email repeats the Tory spokesman line that this is a ‘regrettable and frankly counter-productive decision’ as the only way to get a referendum is to vote Conservative. It adds:

‘The Conservative party will contest the by-election vigorously, to ensure that the people of Clacton have a strong Conservative voice in this Parliament and the next.’

But the question is whether many Tory MPs will be happy to put in the same kind of effort in Clacton as they did in Newark? Fighting a former colleague – and a respected one at that – is going to be very difficult for many backbenchers.

What this announcement has done is make a reconciliation in the split centre-right of politics even more difficult. Carswell has taken the adversarial route, rather than the one some of his colleagues advocated, which would involve a pact. And this means that the divisions on the right have opened up still further today and will be even more difficult to heal.

Tags: Conservatives, Douglas Carswell, UK politics, UKIP