Saturday, August 30, 2014

No more earthquakes, just a game changer - maybe

Just as I thought I would not have to write about UKIP again until the General Election campaign, along comes Douglas Carswell, the man, who, as the Boss says, was still certain just a couple of months ago that the only way to get a referendum (and none of these people seem to think beyond that) was to vote in a Conservative government next year. Apparently, that is no longer the case, that is if we assume, something that is hard to do, that Mr Carswell's sudden volte face, resignation and reappearance on the streets of Clacton to take part in a UKIP "action day" was motivated by something more than just pique at not being treated with the respect he thinks he deserves.

My own feeling is that Mr Carswell himself shows a certain amount of disrespect to the people who worked with him and for him for some years by this rather nauseating appearance so soon after he dropped them into something of a mess. But then, who expects honourable behaviour from a politician.

There are a few problems facing Mr Carswell and UKIP. The first is that absolutely none of his much-proclaimed ideas are at one with those of UKIP, who have long ago turned themselves into a statist, protectionist and welfarist party, the very opposite of what Mr Carswell has been preaching. There is the question of Brexit but that, as the Boss and I have been pointing out ad nauseam, is no longer high on UKIP's agenda and is often omitted completely in favour of another rant about immigrants. Incidentally, how is Mr Carswell going to like being questioned on that subject as he will be by the media who will not think it necessary to treat him with respect either?

Another problem is that of democracy and being different from other parties, two subjects that UKIP tends to treat as interchangeable. Mr Carswell is known as a great believer in open primaries and UKIP periodically proclaims that it is in favour of direct democracy whatever might be meant by that. So, what is happening? It would appear that the NEC has decided to over-rule the local association and put pressure on the already chosen candidate to stand down in favour of the high-profile defector from another party. Open primaries and direct democracy can both go hang when publicity is needed.

The Boss has referred to the hysteria displayed by the media though nobody is talking about earthquakes any longer - a more modest suggestion of a possible game changer is all anyone can come up with. There is speculation that anything from six to ten (depending which newspaper you are reading) other Conservative MPs are about to jump ship. Remains to be seen. I am guessing that they all know that Mr Carswell's defection was not caused by any great burst of political idealism and can see the various difficulties he might encounter. At the very least, I would imagine they will be waiting for the by-election and its results. That might not be quite what Mr Carswell and UKIP are hoping for.

It is not precisely a secret that Nigel Farage has been agitating for the party to put its collective shoulder to the wheel to make him the first UKIP MP in next year's General Election though that was an unlikely scenario as Our Nige is not precisely a vote winner. Now he has to put on his big grin and a happy face on the strong possibility that Mr Carswell will get there ahead of him. The truth is that this is the only way UKIP could win a by-election and even that is not certain. Much depends on how matters will sort themselves out with the local UKIP association and how angry the Conservative voters of Clacton might be. No amount of mutual back-slapping and grinning for the cameras at some "action day" can hide the difficulties. Or not for long, anyway. Dan Hannan thinks otherwise: he thinks Douglas Carswell's decision to jump was entirely noble and that he is entirely popular in Clacton. The first seems odd, when one takes everything into consideration, the second is a possibility but events are about to hit everyone involved in this saga. Besides, I have a rooted objection to any politician who says "take it from me". Somehow I do not find that a convincing argument.

Meanwhile, what of Roger Lord, the original and, as far as anyone knows, present UKIP candidate in Clacton? As we have seen he is not happy. The New Statesman suggests that he might defect to the Tories, which would be quite entertaining. The Daily Telegraph has not gone that far but has published an article in which he has called Douglas Carswell weak and cowardly. Apparently, he has rejected Nigel Farage's slightly off-hand offer of another "plum" seat (there are no plum seats as far as UKIP is concerned and well they know it).

So what does this do for euroscepticism in general? Much depends on how the by-election pans out and the fact that the anti-politician political party has been behaving in the usual kind of politician-like fashion is not something that they can boast about too much. The Boss and I discussed this at length, as readers can imagine. He said quite rightly that if Carswell loses that will be a huge blow to UKIP and also to the Eurosceptic movement. In my opinion, Mr Carswell's ill-thought through action is already a blow: even he wins the by-election he is unlikely to hold on to the seat in the General and will be, in the meantime, a solitary UKIP voice in the Commons who will have to argue that party's policies whether he likes them or not, while being subjected to jeers from his erstwhile colleagues many of whom would have gone on supporting him, had he stayed in the Conservative Party. No, I do not think we can trust the PM or most Conservatives but neither do I like UKIP or most of their policies (the one I agree with having become ever less important to them). Besides, nothing in this world will give us a UKIP government.

What will prove to be quite entertaining will be the Leader's manoeuvring to ensure that he remains the best known UKIP person in the country even though that actually loses the party votes. As things stand, Douglas Carswell is a far better known one and if he actually is re-elected as a UKIP MP, he will be the one the media will go to instead of Nigel Farage, who is not going to like that at all. I wonder if David Cameron has realized that and is banking on the trouble and tension that will appear between two such primadonnas strong personalities.

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