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What to understand the shock the Carswell defection and resignation is bringing to UK politics:  Think of a prominent Congressman or woman or even a Senator who switches parties from one of the two major parties to the Libertarians or the Greens.  Bernie Sanders or Ted Cruz for example.  That is what is happening.

Carswell also resigned his seat to force a by-election in which he will run for his new party.  I do not think he was required to do that.  It was an honorable act identical in kind to what Cong. Phil Gramm of Texas did when he switched from Democrat to Republican.  (Gramm won the seat back in the special election, eventually ran for US Senate [beating Ron Paul among others in the GOP Senate primary] and served in the Senate for several terms.)

Here’s some comment on the Guardian (UK) live blog on the stunning announcement:

Former Young Turk Louise Mensch called Carswell a “slimeball” in a (is it tweet?) tweet:

Douglas Carswell was always a bit of a slimeball. He organised referendums against Conservative MPs in very marginal seats from his safe one

But another admiring writer for the Guardian,  Peter Oborne, called teh defection a “seismic shock” to the UK political system:

He [Carswell] cannot be compared to the ordinary self-interested political defections, for instance Shaun Woodward or Quentin Davies’ departure from the Conservatives to New Labour, in 2001 and 2007 respectively. Mr Carswell, and this is completely terrifying for David Cameron, is acting out of conviction rather than self-interest. It is greatly to the credit of Mr Carswell that, in striking contrast to Woodward or Davies, he has called a by-election to fight his Essex constituency, where he may even stand a chance of success. If he wins, he will have broken every known rule of politics. It has always been assumed that the individual vote which an incumbent MP can attract is a fraction of that commanded by the party which he represents. If Mr Carswell carries Clacton, a political convulsion will have taken place.

So the by-election is worth writing about.  I’ll see if Tom White will let me borrow the Virginia Right Lear Jet for October 9 [the probable date for the by-election) to cover it!

There may be others who are considering it – both from the Tories (my daughter Tory, not named after the political party thank you, thinks it great that the Brits named a political party after her!) and from Labour, too.

Carswell from the news conference:

You need to talk to them. I’m not going to breach confidences. I’ve made this decision. It is an incredibly personal decision. For me it is the right decision. You need to talk to others.

The UKIP treasurer, Stuart Wheeler, says yes there will be more defections:

Further Conservative MPs are “more likely than not” to follow Douglas Carswell to UKIP, the party’s treasurer Stuart Wheeler has told the BBC.

The spread-betting tycoon said it was “odds on” – and he urged those thinking about defecting to get in touch with him “for the sake of the country”.

But I do not think based on my reading that anyone will defect unless Carswell wins the by-election.  But another UKIP source told the BBC that several Labour MPs were considering the switch, too:

A UKIP source has also told BBC News the party is talking to five to 10 Labour MPs about possible defection.

But this was firmly denied by Labour, who accused UKIP of mischief-making.

That would be a major development – another electoral earthquake – if even one Labour MP switched to UKIP.  But UKIP has made inroads into Labour electoral territory and I have suggested the Farage Labourite is a type of voter that can be won and IS being won to UKIP.

Several Tory MPs also said they would not campaign against Carswell (The Times is a pay site and I got the quote from ConservativeHome):

“Conservative MPs warned yesterday that they would refuse to campaign against Douglas Carswell as his defection to Ukip continued to send shockwaves through his former party. Tories suggested there could be a damaging split on the right of British politics after the MP for Clacton jumped ship to UKIP and triggered a by-election. Some are even urging the Conservatives not to field a candidate against their former colleague.”

That would be amazing.  This may be opening up British politics in a way not imagined just a few years ago.  The Party is king in the UK – not like the US where there is some individual freedom to act as an elected official.

But other Tories are skeptical and contemptuous, as would be expected from a party-switcher:

A dozen Tory MPs told The Daily Telegraph they were critical of his decision, including veteran backbencher Bill Cash who described it as “the biggest own goal of all time”.

He said: “He has made a terrible mistake and a total misjudgement, it is an emphatic betrayal of the Eurosceptic side of the party.

“What he has done is undermine the whole Eurosceptic cause by throwing in his lot with a party out to destroy the only party capable of delivering the referendum – the Conservatives. It is political vanity.”


John Redwood said: “We were delighted when Douglas came out spontaneously and supported it [David Cameron’s referendum pledge. Nothing has changed since then, so I find it curious that he should now be so hostile.

I admire PM and now Sir Bill Cash and I wish he hadn’t been so strong in his criticism.

At ConservativeHome, Paul Goodman discusses high-minded MPs like Carswell as potential sources of new defections but more likely future movers and shakers in the Tory Party:

Today, the hunt is up for Conservative MPs who will follow Carswell to UKIP.  Maybe some will, maybe none will: time will tell, and nearly everything else is guesswork in the meantime.  So perhaps it is better to search instead for those Tory MPs who, unlike Cameron, are not power-focused politicians but are, like Carswell, ideas-focused ones, and ask if they are the wave of the future.  The Clacton MP’s old friend and co-author Daniel Hannan springs to mind.  But he, of course, is not an MP.  It will be claimed that he and Carswell are rare among Conservative politicians in placing ideas first and office second.  However, they are not quite as unusual as some imagine.  Almost off the top of my head, I name three.  All are members of the 2010 intake.  None, interestingly, are on the Right of the Party.

Zac Goldsmith combines Eurosceptism with green politics.  Rory Stewart is a renowned writer, a serious thinker about intervention abroad, and much more of an operator than some believe.  (You don’t get elected as Chairman of a Select Committee otherwise.)  Jesse Norman is both a reflective thinker in the tradition of Burke, whose biography he recently wrote, and a Parliamentary street fighter who is now leading opposition to the proposed appointment of Carol Mills. None are potential UKIP defectors.  (Goldsmith has ruled the move out explicitly.) All of them are high-minded.  None are remotely on-message.   All of them have tangled with Downing Street, sometimes quietly, sometimes less so, and share Carswell’s contempt for biddability.

Goodman suggests a new era for Tory politics:

They will be more like Boris Johnson and Alex Salmond – quirky, outspoken, “authentic” – than Osborne or Cameron.  Carswell is gone but the shift in tone and thinking of which he was part continues.

All hail the quirky pol!  Is it too late to move to Britain?  (Note the Young Turk Rory Stewart cite and fellow YT and cabinet minister Savid Javid was also cited as a new type of idea-oriented leader for Britain.)

Well got to go!  This article will be cited at the main article on Carswell’s defection primarily for my British readers.


About Elwood Sanders

Elwood "Sandy" Sanders is a Hanover attorney who is an Appellate Procedure Consultant for Lantagne Legal Printing and has written ten scholarly legal articles. Sandy was also Virginia's first Appellate Defender and also helped bring curling in VA! (None of these titles imply any endorsement of Sanders’ views)

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Tom White Says:

Nothing is more conservative than a republican wanting to get their majority back. And nothing is more liberal than a republican WITH a majority.

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