Stuart Wheeler has just been boasting on Sky News that two more Conservative MPs are ‘seriously considering’ defecting to Ukip. Wheeler has been the broker in any potential defections, wining and dining potential converts before asking if they want a meeting with Nigel Farage. Not all of them have said yes to that second offer. It is, though, plausible that there are MPs who are still not rock solid in their decision to back the Tories all the way to the next election. The result of the Clacton by-election, how David Cameron plays the Europe question and how he manages the party over the next few months will determine whether they do go or not.

But it is surely risky for Ukip to boast about further defections when the party does not know that there will be any more. To gain one MP is quite enough drama for them to feast on for months, so why whip up excitement over a phantom? If no MPs defect, then the party’s failure to attract more will become a story, rather than its coup in enticing a backbencher who until very recently was praising his party’s progress and blocking the attempts of his fellow rebels to cause trouble for the Prime Minister over Europe. It wants to feast on the pain it is already causing the Conservative party, not hanker for more that might not materialise.

Tags: Conservatives, Douglas Carswell, Stuart Wheeler, UK politics, UKIP