I’m writing this in the immediate wake of Douglas Carswell MP’s resignation from UKIP.
My immediate feelings – mild relief for one. A little sadness on the other hand. It can be argued that the public car-crash that the party has become since Farage’s resignation last year is partly attributable to him. He undermined Farage and openly defied him at times. I won’t name the examples, but merely point you here, here, here and here.
I’ve always liked Carswell’s classical liberal/ libertarian angle on politics. I’d bought a couple of his books – The End of Politics and Birth of iDemocracy and The Plan: Twelve Months to Renew Britain. I credit these with influencing my political stance today. I’ll still be buying his new book ‘Rebel: How to Overthrow the Emerging Oligarchy‘. But despite the fact my political beliefs would appear to overlap with his substantially, I came to realise that he was pure-poison to the party.
His time in UKIP, from his defection from the Tories in 2014 up until the present was awkward. He didn’t gel with the party faithful. As an outsider, I don’t know exactly what happened. I can make a few guesses;
- as a true classical liberal, he always subscribed to complete freedom of movement. UKIP’s rhetoric had been heavily against such policies for 10 years prior to Carswell’s joining. This made him incompatible with what had become one of the party’s core principles
- he expressed open distaste for the way the party talked about immigration
- he seemed to prefer UKIP becoming a different type of Tory party. All for ‘respectability’ he shunned UKIP’s rather rough-and-ready approach. He seemed to want to take the party towards the centre-ground. His touting of polished media-performer Suzanne Evans for the party leadership was an example
He didn’t seem to realise that UKIP’s support arises from us being anti-establishment and very different from the others. By seeking to tone down the immigration message he was seeking respectability and approval from the political establishment. Well, we never wanted to be the establishment. As far as I’m aware most of us still don’t want to be. ”UKIP is radical or it is nothing” (Nigel Farage) and one wonders if Carswell’s motivations were guided in an organised attempt to dilute or ‘de-toxify’ the party’s message. Rumours abound of a plot cooked up between Carswell and his close friend Daniel Hannan MEP to achieve just such a result. Did they think that UKIP, the party that had forced David Cameron’s hand in declaring the EU Referendum, was toxic and that we would jeopardise the Leave vote? As time rolls by, I’ve come to believe that things don’t happen as accidentally as they appear, or are made to appear. It is certainly possible that ‘the news’ we see is the result of organised actions rather than by chance
Carswell has set out his reasons for leaving the party. I have reproduced his statement below. In my opinion it is a warm and generous statement. One must bear in mind it comes shortly before he was due to answer questions posed by the party’s National Executive Committee on alleged leaking of confidential party communications.
‘It has been an extraordinary achievement. UKIP, my party, which was founded in 1993 in order to get Britain out of the European Union, has now achieved what we were established to do.
On Wednesday, the Prime Minister is going to trigger Article 50, beginning the formal process of withdrawing our country from the EU. By April 2019, Britain will no longer be a member of the EU. After twenty-four years, we have done it. Brexit is in good hands.
UKIP might not have managed to win many seats in Parliament, but in a way we are the most successful political party in Britain ever. We have achieved what we were established to do – and in doing so we have changed the course of our country’s history for the better. Make no mistake; we would not be leaving the EU if it was not for UKIP – and for those remarkable people who founded, supported and sustained our party over that period.
Our party has prevailed thanks to the heroic efforts of UKIP party members and supporters. You ensured we got a referendum. With your street stalls and leafleting, you helped Vote Leave win the referendum. You should all be given medals for what you helped make happen – and face the future with optimism.
Like many of you, I switched to UKIP because I desperately wanted us to leave the EU. Now we can be certain that that is going to happen, I have decided that I will be leaving UKIP.
I will not be switching parties, nor crossing the floor to the Conservatives, so do not need to call a by election, as I did when switching from the Conservatives to UKIP. I will simply be the Member of Parliament for Clacton, sitting as an independent.
I will leave UKIP amicably, cheerfully and in the knowledge that we won.
At the hundreds of meetings and action days I have attended as a UKIP activist across the country since I joined in August 2014, I have met some truly remarkable people. You are heroes! Thank you and well done. I wish you all well.
When first elected to represent Clacton in 2005, I promised to do all I could to help ensure that Britain left the EU. To the consternation of my then party whips (some of who, I’m delighted to see, are now ministers helping make Brexit happen), I made my intentions on that front plain in my maiden speech. Job done.
I will be putting all of my effort into tackling some of the local problems affecting the NHS in our part of Essex, including GP shortages and the threat to our local Minor Injuries Unit. In that spirit, I called a Westminster Hall debate last week about the future of primary care in our part of Essex. Local comes first.
Cheer up! The days when small elites can try to arrange human social and economic affairs by grand design are coming to an end. Change is coming – Brexit is just the beginning.’
Whatever his motivations, the party can be left more free to re-structure itself without its most divisive figure.
There are a few more who need to resign to effect change. I might suggest some names in future posts.
2015 UKIP Parliamentary Candidate, Worcester