I rejoiced at the news of Douglas Carswell’s defection to Ukip. Not because I’m a Ukip supporter (I haven’t made up my mind) but because it highlights the slippery dishonesty of the Tories’ modernisation programme – ‘the political equivalent of botox’, as Charles Moore puts it in today’s Telegraph:
The pattern of the leader’s actions conveys a message to party workers: they are the problem. Not surprisingly, they tend to leave. Instead of being a renewal, modernisation has become a hollowing out. Douglas Carswell, by contrast, is authentically a moderniser.
At the heart of Carswell’s vision for Britain lies the expansion of the franchise and political accountability. He believes that digital technology can create social cohesion and therefore a fresh patriotism. He is perhaps the boldest thinker in the House of Commons.
David Cameron has shown no interest in Carswell’s ideas. Indeed, I suspect that – as is his way – he has directed robust insults at him, and that this helps explain Carswell’s sudden change of heart. Nigel Farage, by contrast, displays in private an intellectual curiosity that is at odds with his public image. If he embraces some of his new recruit’s manifesto for digital democracy, then Ukip’s appeal will be enriched.
But Carswell’s immediate mission, which he will have to approach delicately, must be to help the overworked Farage hold things together. Something has to be done about Ukip’s fuck-up factor: the row over deselected Clacton candidate Roger Lord should have been anticipated, but of course it wasn’t. CCHQ runs an anti-Ukip black ops campaign, but most of the time it scarcely needs to bother. Carswell has a tidy mind and – as journalists who have worked with him with can attest – little tolerance for unprofessionalism. If he can help dispel the whiff of amateurism hanging over his new colleagues, then that will deliver far more votes than meticulous policy-tweaking.