“[The Tory] Parliamentary majority was slashed from a healthy 100 to a – by comparison – fairly feebly twenty. If the truth be told, John Major and the rest of us were relieved to achieve even that result. It was a workable majority, or so the PM thought. The debates on the Maastricht Treaty would prove otherwise. With a majority of 100 a rebellion would have been futile. But with twenty, a group of determined backbenchers can change government policies. The government can no longer allow itself the luxury of doing just as it likes”
Teresa Gorman MP, “The Bastards“.
In news that has seemingly come out of the ‘blue‘, Douglas Carswell has defected to UKIP. In some ways this is not really surprising. His political views have increasingly been at odds with the party he represents. It maybe more a factor that the party has left him not that he has left the party. As we remember he is one of the few Tory MPs to vote against EU measures.
However we also remember that Carswell has not been entirely consistent in EU views, often clearly putting his party first above his ‘principles’. He has backed Cameron when it is readily apparent that Cameron is not only a Europhile but has no intention of being a Prime Minister that leads the UK out of the EU. Despite Cameron’s clear deception on the issue Carswell noted in January 2014 he was wrong to rebel against the party line:
“What is it we now want, guys? We’re going to face a reckoning with the electorate in just over a year’s time. We’re two points behind the Labour Party. We can do this – we really can do this. If we lack discipline, we’re going to have five or six appalling years in opposition to dwell on it”
The Spectator concludes as a result of the interview:
Here’s a sneak preview of what was supposed to be a debate about the wisdom of rebelling – but ended up being Carswell explaining why he believes his colleagues should now stop defying the government, and support the PM.
And this was the same man who in 2012 that claimed (my emphasis):
One of the reasons I backed David Cameron to be party leader early on in his leadership campaign was because I wanted to see a different kind of Conservatism. I still do – and I’d vote for him to deliver it if there was a leadership contest tomorrow.
Even though there is obvious evidence that Cameron is not…
…a secret patriot waiting for the chance to rip off his expensive tailoring and reveal his inner Thatcher. He is exactly what he looks like, an unprincipled chancer with limited skills in public relations”.
So with this in mind we have a couple of observations or more accurately a number of questions regarding Carswell’s motives.
The first is why defect? As it currently stands (and currently is the operative word) the Tories are the only party in a position to possibly win the next General Election who offers an in/out referendum on membership of the EU. Labour have chosen not to unless there’s a new Treaty and the Lib Dems… well they, to no-one’s surprise, have no intention of doing so.
As we have noted on here before Cameron has categorically promised a referendum in 2017 and one in circumstances which are most favourable to the “outers”:
Thus the EU is in a mess, Cameron has been shown up publicly that he cannot deliver on reform or influence and he almost certainly cannot recommend an “in” vote in 2017. Add to that his general incompetence and it’s difficult to envisage a better framework for the ‘outers’ to win a referendum. The chances of winning a referendum has improved significantly.
Understandably there is much scepticism of Cameron’s promises given the “cast iron” one over Lisbon – which turned out to be one of Cameron’s greatest mistakes and which more than likely cost him the 2010 election.
However political reality suggests that he won’t have much choice to attempt to try the same again. Poll ratings, Labour bias in the electoral system and Labour’s superior ability to manipulate the postal vote means if the Tories do win the next election any majority they gain will be relatively small in number.
With this in mind we refer to Teresa Gorman’s quote above that a small majority gives the backbenchers far more power over the government – “the government can no longer allow itself the luxury of doing just as it likes”. Nothing illustrates this better than the constant rebellions over current coalition government policies such as the EU rebellions over an EU referendum.
In other words, with a small majority the political reality would be that Cameron will be forced to hold a referendum on terms which will be the most favourable possible for the ‘out’ camp. This is reflected in the fact that Cameron only promised an EU referendum precisely because he is “unprincipled chancer”. He will do what ever his party tells him particularly with a small majority.
Of course we are under no illusions of the Tory track record on the EU or that party positions might change in the meantime, but as it stands:
- A vote for Labour is EU membership
- A vote for UKIP is EU membership by virtue of they can’t possibly get enough MPs based on current poll ratings
- A vote for Lib Dems is EU membership
- A vote for Tories is a possible referendum we can win.
We wonder therefore why Carswell has jumped ship, just under a year away from a General Election, when statistically a Tory win might give him the EU exit he craves?
We appreciate that we’re in the middle of silly season and crucially the news is understandably being dominated by the appalling deficiency of Rotherham Council and Police. So why would Carswell defect when he maybe unable to guarantee dominate coverage to ensure Cameron is fully embarrassed? The answer may lie in the fact that the Tory party conference is taking place towards the end of September which is four weeks away. If the by-election is moved quickly it will occur just in time for the result to be the main discussion point at the Tory conference.
In addition intriguingly via a by-election Carswell might ensure that by winning he would become the first elected UKIP MP – UKIP defections have occurred before of course but not with an electoral mandate. Carswell winning a by-election would pose a problem for Farage, if not a threat. For a man who has made UKIP his own party it could be that the first elected UKIP MP would not be himself – “let’s make history” Farage’s latest email says:
Last night I was selected by local party members to stand as UKIP’s Thanet South candidate for the upcoming general election.
With recent polling showing that UKIP can win the Thanet South seat in May, I look forward to the forthcoming campaign where we can set out a positive vision, for a free and independent Britain outside of the EU.
Farage calls ‘Carswell’s’ move “brave” but we wonder whether that for Farage himself this is a “be careful what you wish for” moment. Another question is where does this leave Daniel Hannan, who co-authored the Plan. Hannan seems reluctant to make the same jump.
Perhaps rather cynically we might consider if this is attempt of a coup d’etat of UKIP by the Tory party just before an election. Its consequences mean there will be splits in the eurosceptic camp – to the convenience of the establishment. A Labour government in 2015 will result in 5 more years of EU membership.
There is no ulterior motive on this blog, apart for campaigning for EU exit. We make no suggestions apart from the fact that as it currently stands Carswell’s defection actually makes EU exit less likely not more, and he is not a man to be entirely trusted. Split parties do not win elections.
The ultimate question is what do Eurosceptics want? Destruction of the Tory party or EU exit?