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A cat among the pigeons

Tory MP Douglas Carswell defects to Ukip and forces byelection, reports the Guardian, beating all the other broadsheets by a good quarter of an hour.

He did not have to resign. He could have just crossed the floor and kept his seat, at least until the next election. I rather admire him for re-submitting himself to the voters in his constituency. Of course the chance that they will vote for him while standing for a minor party is much higher in a by-election than in a general election. He may calculate that he can ride in now on a carriage drawn by the two horses of a protest vote and his personal popularity, and then trust to voters’ preference for the status quo come the general election.

This is fun! What does it all portend, for UKIP, for the Tories, for Labour, for the Scottish referendum?

35 comments to A cat among the pigeons

  • Derek Buxton

    Are there any “tories” left? Just asking, I cannot think of many in the HoC and no one in the Cabinet!

  • Mr Ed

    Mr Carswell would be a great first MP for UKIP, and his principled stand is a rare one these days. For the Conservatives, let us hope that the campaign against Mr Carswell is the death rattle of a party suffering from terminal flatulence.

    For Labour, they have the ‘dork’ vote sewn up, they would hardly care. Would anyone in Rotherham who voted Labour look at Labour and ask themselves why they voted Labour, or why they should do so again? I doubt it.

    For the Scottish referendum, it may give them the impetus to leave the UK and the EU before coming back into the EU on the EU’s terms.

  • For the Conservatives, let us hope that the campaign against Mr Carswell is the death rattle of a party suffering from terminal flatulence.

    LOL

  • Yes this *is* great fun! Get some popcorn!

  • Jamess

    It makes a lot of sense for him to resign as he does, firstly to follow his own principles – he’s taken quite a lot of flack in the past for going with the conservative manifesto that he feels (wrongly I believe) people voted for when they voted for him. Secondly no one at this by-election is going to think it’s just a normal election and they end up voting conservative because they have always done so and see no point in reconsidering this time.

    I’m really glad to hear what he’s done. I hope others will follow suit, and I suspect their best chance of getting back into parliament longer term is to do what Carswell is doing and trigger a by-election.

  • Sam Duncan

    “… for the Scottish referendum?”

    I don’t know – probably nothing; I maintain that nothing really has had any meaningful effect on it – but I do wonder if it explains why, after promising otherwise, UKIP has been disappointingly quiet on the subject over the summer. This probably took a lot of managing.

    Mind you, his statement about the three main parties not being serious about the problems that face us could easily be extended to the nationalists.

  • Laird

    Switching political parties in the US (where, remember, there are only two parties of any significance) isn’t all that rare, although doing so while holding elective office is. At the federal level, only Jim Jeffords (R to Independent) and Arlen Specter (R to D) in the Senate comes to mind, but then neither was ever really a Republican anyway. But I can’t remember ever seeing any who resigned from his office as a consequence of the change. Kudos to Mr. Carswell for having the strength of principle to do so.

  • Patrick Crozier

    Douglas Carswell is an acquaintance of mine from the days when we were both parliamentary researchers. More recently I interviewed him for the Cobden Centre. He is very much a libertarian and very much a democrat. It was from him that I learnt that once upon a time newly-appointed ministers had to face a by-election. His decision to stand down and force a by-election is therefore entirely in keeping with his principles. It also says a lot about his integrity.

    The question to my mind is who next? Dan Hannan MEP is long-time collaborator of Carswell’s. This is going to put him in a very awkward position not least because if he also defects and resigns there won’t be a by-election.

  • Snag

    Dan Hannan just tweeted:

    I won’t be joining UKIP, though I wish @DouglasCarswell all the best. He has been a superb MP, and it’s honourable to stand for re-election.

    Farage has already said that he won’t be leading UKIP into another election after 2015, so presumably Carswell is the front-runner to be their next leader. Let’s hope that if he is, he’ll be able to skew that party libertarian-wise, although the huge stumbling block to that is the abhorrence the rank and file UKIP members have to inward migration, even to economic migrants of an entrepreneurial bent. On economic matters he is as sound an MP as exists.

  • He is very much a libertarian and very much a democrat.

    He is certainly a democrat.

  • Alex

    I am a rank and file member of UKIP and I am not at all hostile to immigration. The party view is that the current immigration system discriminates unfairly against migrants from outside the EU (a view with which I agree) and that immigration from the EU is out of control (with which I also agree) and that it should be tightly controlled (with which I do not agree).

    About Carswell, I doubt any other Conservative MPs will be rushing to join UKIP but the situation is certainly interesting. I naturally hope he does well in the by-election especially in light of the above comments from Patrick Crozier.

  • Regional

    You Brits will have explain to this dumb bogan how you’re a democracy? What I see is that only about 60% of the electorate vote and with first past the post wins even though the majority of those who voted, voted against the winner.

  • PeterT

    I am much less anti anti-immigration than I used to be. I often find a useful thought experiment to be to ask what the solution to a particular issue might be in an anarcho-capitalist society where “everything” was private, including roads and all of what is currently termed “public space”. I do not think that we would have unrestricted immigration in such a situation. I do not think that unrestricted immigration would necessarily lead to a better approximation of an anarcho-capitalist solution than the immigration system we currently have, or what it might be with a UKIP government. However, I have to admit that I do find the focus that UKIP puts on the issue somewhat off-putting.

  • Not sure what it is that you wish us to explain Regional? Your definition is that for each person elected, more usually vote for someone else… I think that is a pretty good definition of UK democracy.

    As always the First-Past-The-Post system benefits the incumbants and makes it very difficult for a minority party such as UKIP to get any MP’s.

    For example, from the founding of the SNP it took 50-years until they got their first elected MP, so if Douglas Carswell can do the same in only 20-years or so (depending upon how you count the birth of UKIP), then that is quite something.

  • Mr Ed

    Regional

    with first past the post wins even though the majority of those who voted, voted against the winner.

    They would not have voted against the winner, they simply didn’t vote for the winner. And some MPs get > 50% anyway.

    We can’t be bothered to count second preferences. We only count postal votes, and I note that today, I have a letter telling me that I do not need to re-register to vote for the next (General Election) year, as I am automatically re-registered at the same address as last year unless I respond to a letter sent to my last know address to say I no longer live here. Methinks that they are planning to make it easier to rig the postal votes in a General Election year by this method, saving our Socialist friends a lot of ink and effort.

    Voting in the UK is voluntary, unlike in your Commonwealth.

  • lucklucky

    If a country is the property of those that are there then they have a business of saying who enters it.

    “He is very much a libertarian and very much a democrat.”

    I hope you know that can be a contradiction. Voting for something is taking the freedom from those defeated.

    We should restrict more what we vote about.

  • Rich Rostrom

    Laird @ August 28, 2014 at 1:43 pm:

    Switching political parties in the US … But I can’t remember ever seeing any who resigned from his office as a consequence of the change.

    Former Senator Phil Gramm of Texas was elected to the U.S. House as a Democrat in 1978, re-elected in 1980 and 1982. At the start of his third term, he announced his change of party and resigned. He then won the special election to fill the vacancy. In 1984 he was elected to the Senate, where he served three terms, retiring in 2002.

    Generally speaking, party changers don’t resign, because the party label means less (it does not affect control of the government). The legislator may believe (and usually says) that he is leaving the party to keep faith with the views of his constituents on the issues; by resigning, he would give up his ability to represent those views. Special elections are annoying (more so than British by-elections).

    Also, when a Senate seat goes vacant, the governor of the state appoints a replacement; there may not be a special election for several months.

    There have been quite a few other party changers. Some Southern Democrats flipped, notably Senator Strom Thurmond (SC) and Senator Richard Shelby (AL).

  • Bloomberg, but that was local.

  • Nick (Natural Genius) Gray

    Here in Australia, we had a politician who quit, but he started a new middle-of-the-road party, called the Democrats, who ended up in a position of influence in the upper house, years later.
    Incidentally, what happens in the British house of Lords? When an incumbent leaves, does the Lower house appoint a new member, or what?

  • Regional

    If you watch Midsomer Merders most of the scenarios involving the aristocracy are too bizarre to be fiction and appear to have been adapted from real life, these people sit in the House of Lords.

  • Nick (Natural Genius) Gray

    Would you want them roaming loose in the English countryside?

  • David Crawford


    Would you want them roaming loose in the English countryside?

    I guess it would depend on what the daily bag limit is.

  • Paul Marks

    Douglas Carswell may move UKIP away (a bit) from the obsession with immigration. Whatever the merits of that case – it is too late (now that 25% of babies, in England and Wales, are born to women who were not born in the United Kingdom and many of the mothers who were born in the United Kingdom not “ethically English” anyway).

    The merits (or otherwise) of “ethnic nationalism” are one thing – but (whatever they are) it is too late for it, the horse has bolted (as it has in the United States – where the situation is even more extreme with the majority of children starting school now being non-white). There must be a turn away from ethnic nationalism towards political principles.

    Such as loyalty to the Crown in Parliament – which UKIP used to have at the centre of its beliefs (and hopefully will again).

    Of course the borders should be controlled – but it is too late to have that as the centre piece of policy. UKIP should (and I think will) adjust its language so as to avoid the perception of being hostile to Eastern Europeans.

    As for the Conservative party…..

    Mr Carswell clearly does not believe the promises of Mr Cameron on the E.U. (or other things). The logic response of David C. would be to give evidence that his promises can be trusted.

    However, politics is not known for logical action.

    Politics is a graveyard of predictions, but I will say this.

    Mr David C. will not be leader of the Conservative Party in a year.

  • Lee Moore

    One amusing side effect of this, if he wins his by-election, is that the BBC will have to change its policy on how much coverage to give each party at the general election. Their excuse for giving lots of coverage to the LibDems, when they had a few million votes but hardly any MPs, was that they had to reflect a party’s voting support in national elections (ie general and European.) But when UKIP started getting la few million votes, they had to tweak the official policy so that mere votes were not enough, you also needed to have representation in the House of Commons. This allowed them to continue giving the Greens wall to wall coverage, despite the fact that they get far fewer votes than UKIP, because the Greenie lady won a seat in Brighton. If Carswell gets elected as a UKIP MP in the by-election, they will have to tweak the policy again to favour parties with MPs elected at a general election. If Carswell holds his seat in the by-election and then holds it again in the general election, they’ll really have to scratch their heads.

  • Mr Ed

    they’ll really have to scratch their heads.

    I predict that they will do whatever they like knowing that they can get away it and still be paid the licence fee.

  • Kevin B

    I do think that much of UKIP’s ‘obsession with immigration’ is down to the media’s obsession with UKIP’s ‘obsession with immigration.’ Or more correctly, the media’s never ending, sometimes quite risible, attempts to potray UKIP as racist.

    The rest of UKIP’s ‘obsession with immigration’ is probably them pandering to much of the public’s view on the subject. Pandering in the sense of reflecting the views of the public rather than taking a pious, holier-than-thou position that the public should not be allowed an opinion on this matter. This being the position of the media, academia and the other major parties; a position which has led us to be such a wonderfully vibrant multicultural society. [Don't mention Rotherham Kevin. That's a bit below the belt.]

    We do seem to hear very much less in the media of one of UKIP’s minor policy positions; that of removing the UK from the EU, but such is life.

  • Snorri Godhi

    It is easy to understand why the UKIP makes a fuss about Eastern European immigration: they can blame it on the EU. By contrast, take Pakistani immigration (just a random example, honestly!): they can only blame it on the British Empire.

    Similarly, Farage blames Greece’s problems on the euro rather than on Greek public spending, because in this way he can deflect the blame onto the EU.

  • That’s a very good point, Snorri – haven’t thought of that…

  • Mr Ed

    It is easy to understand why the UKIP makes a fuss about Eastern European immigration: they can blame it on the EU. By contrast, take Pakistani immigration (just a random example, honestly!): they can only blame it on the British Empire.

    Surely the ‘blame’ as in ‘attribution of causation’ falls on the governments that amended laws to permit immigration, and the bulk of the immigration that has occurred has been from countries after they achieved independence and became (in the main) members of the Commonwealth?

    And Mr Farage should blame Greece’s woes on the combination of high public spending and the Euro, had they retained the drachma, the woes would differ slightly, presumably inflation to pay the State’s bills rather than borrowing.

  • Lee Moore

    “Surely the ‘blame’ as in ‘attribution of causation’ falls on the governments that amended laws to permit immigration, and the bulk of the immigration that has occurred has been from countries after they achieved independence and became (in the main) members of the Commonwealth?”

    Up to a point. A lot of the most important amendments to the law in the last twenty years have come from the judiciary, inventing ever more ingenious pieces of sophistry for treating economic and welfare migrants as if they were genuine asylum seekers. Followed by the 1997-2010 Labour government failing, deliberately, to change the law back to what it was before the judges’ intervention.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Ed, Lee: good points, but i did not want to expand my comment beyond a soundbite: in any case Farage cannot blame the EU for Commonwealth immigration.

    And Mr Farage should blame Greece’s woes on the combination of high public spending and the Euro, had they retained the drachma, the woes would differ slightly, presumably inflation to pay the State’s bills rather than borrowing.

    My guess is that, had Greece been kept out of the eurozone (as the Germans were keen to do, pace Farage) the Greek gov. would have had to pay higher interest rates to compensate bondholders for the risk of inflation.
    The higher interest rates would have put a “soft” brake on public spending.
    What happened instead is that interest rates became too low (given the attitudes of the Greek political class), until the risk of default (or redenomination of the debt in drachmas, which is the same thing) led to their dramatic increase, and the need for a “hard” brake on spending … and/or handouts from Northern Europe.

    So yes, the euro could be partly to blame, but the argument is more subtle than Farage and Hannan make it, and of course we don’t know for sure how the Greek gov. would have acted outside the eurozone. In any case, pace Farage again, there is nothing to gain now for Greece in leaving the eurozone.

  • long-lost cousin

    Party flippers also included Ben Campbell (D-to-R-CO) and Joe Lieberman (D-to-pretending-to-be-I-CT).

    I think one of the RINOs in Maine did also, but that might have been a state office.

  • There was also that guy from WI, back in the 90s…

  • Laird

    True, but to resign and stand for re-election after the flip is extremely rare. That was my point. Phil Gramm (as was noted by Rich Rostrom above) is the only one who comes to mind. Most of the time party-switchers simply move across the aisle and keep going. (Or, like Ronald Reagan, they make the switch while out of office.)