To some extent, we can argue that if Douglas Carswell manages to hold Clacton this will be of some importance as he will be the first elected UKIP MP in the House of Commons. There is a little too much hyperbole around with Carswell himself quoting Henry V and urging "team Clacton" to defeat the "Westminster machine". That, I presume, would be the Westminster machine that he was a fairly successful part of until about two months ago and the one that helped him to win Clacton in the first place and to hold it in 2010 with a very good majority. The Westminster machine that, in short, helped to place him into the position he is in now: a man who may well become the first elected UKIP MP.
Nothing wrong with that, one might say. All is fair in love, war and politics, which is war by any other name. He used the machine then when he decided for whatever reason that he wanted to go beyond it he did so and continued to use the benefits he had been given by that machine. Hardly the first politician to do so in the long history of British politics. Most of them, one has to admit, ended badly though not as badly as losers have done in other political structures.
One elected MP, at least until May, is not going to make that much difference: Westminster has managed to survive individual rebels before and even new parties (the highly successful Labour Party, which by the stage of its history that UKIP has reached was forming its first government, springs to mind). Nor has it been unknown for MPs to change parties and fight seats under different banners. If Churchill could go from Conservative to Liberal and back again, I see no reason why Douglas Carswell should not be able to.
What I find slightly disconcerting is the hysteria around this particular by-election. Admittedly, UKIP has not been particularly successful in Westminster politics, having had one MP in the past who had not bothered to call a by-election and lost his seat in the General when he stood under his new banner and having three Peers. Nevertheless, the idea that today will be as important in British politics as Agincourt was in the Hundred Years' War between England and France is more than a little fatuous.
My own prediction for what it's worth is that Carswell will keep Clacton until the General Election and will lose it then; UKIP will do fairly well in the other by-election today though the seat will remain Labour; and Reckless, when his turn comes, will lose his seat. That will be of greater import, as the likelihood is that he will split the vote and let in a Labour MP, which event will concentrate Conservative minds and even the minds of those who think having an IN/OUT referendum is the aim of our fight.