Accepting Carswell with open arms is actually a massive risk for UKIP

It has gone unnoticed, but accepting a genuine libertarian who disregards party loyalists is actually a really bad move for UKIP

It has gone unnoticed, but accepting a genuine libertarian who disregards party loyalists is actually a really bad move for UKIP

In a tweet yesterday, Owen Jones said:

Douglas Carswell … is a really bright and serious man (with reactionary politics). If I was a Tory, I’d be scared.

He’s absolutely right to say this, but I’ll go one further: if I was a Ukipper I’d be quite scared as well.

For David Cameron this means one less Eurosceptic. I’m downplaying it a bit, sure; Cameron will be worried that a very intellectual, and rather influential member of his party has gone, which makes Cameron look silly, and has gone to a party that has for some time been tearing chunks out of the Conservatives.

But David Cameron doesn’t really want out of Europe, and Carswell was one of the strongest and most often heard Eurosceptic voices in his party. Cameron might have a fight from his own backbenchers about Europe now, but – and I say this as critic and foe of his and his government – Cameron often comes out on top of his internal fights. He may well show some muscle again on this.

For Ukip however, Carswell crossing the fence means that libertarianism is now back in vogue for their party. Just looking at Carswell’s resignation letter, it is populated with positive references to immigration for example:

“On the subject of immigration, let me make it absolutely clear; I’m not against immigration. The one thing more ugly that [sic] nativism is angry nativism.”

No scare stories about Romanians and Bulgarians here.

For him, libertarianism has become a more widely accepted political discourse in recent years, and through his recent political manoeuvre, UKIP will probably find cause to champion such principles louder than ever before.

But is that what UKIP’s support wants? Hasn’t UKIP made the waves it has in Westminster and beyond in recent times for blowing on the dogwhistle louder than David Cameron’s Conservative party ever could? Of course the latter is the party of the “Go Home!” vans, but UKIP has been pretty well stacked with members who have less than libertarian views on immigration.

If it weren’t for Cameron’s inability to control his right flank at the same time as moving the Conservative party closer to social liberalism, then UKIP wouldn’t have happened.

And besides, UKIP always waves the banner of libertarianism precisely because it adds meaningless difference: when Farage says his party is libertarian, what does he mean past believing in free trade (does any party of the mainstream oppose free trade)?

In 2006 UKIP’s then chairman David Campbell Bannerman was given the task of leading a policy review, while party activists at the time were pursuing what they called a ‘radical libertarian alternative’ to the ‘social democratic consensus’ in Westminster.

But while pursuing ‘radical libertarianism’, the party’s What We Stand For web page included things such as repealing the Human Rights Act because it was abused by illegal immigrants, permanent immigration should be frozen, restoring “traditional values” which had been “undermined”, getting rid of multiculturalism etc etc.

The page is no longer there but it was right up until at least 2012 when Alex Massie, a real libertarian, wrote about it. The point is the Conservatives had opened up a space in the political market for back-to-basics conservatism based on fear of the other, and UKIP entered that space for years.

Clearly their success has not hitherto been on the back of ‘radical libertarianism’, but gaining a new star libertarian player from the Tories in Carswell may just change this altogether; a real risk for the unity of the party.

Another reason Ukippers should be worried is for their internal party democracy. Exactly 10 years ago Richard Suchorzewski defected from the Tories to UKIP and right away advocated for greater internal democracy. But UKIP knows no such thing.

More broadly Nigel Farage said earlier this year: “[UKIP] is pushing for a system of “direct democracy”.” Well not in Clacton it isn’t, and nor do I imagine Carswell will be following in the footsteps of Suchorzewski calling for internal reform.

Instead Carswell has a pretty strong chance of delivering UKIP their first seat in parliament. This hasn’t made Roger Lord, the prospective UKIP candidate in Clacton, very happy. Since Lord is not the candidate to stand in a by-election, which Carswell’s standing down has caused, it has made it possible within UKIP’s own rules for Carswell to be the prospective candidate for UKIP.

Direct democracy? I think not.

I rather think Roger Lord has a point about Carswell’s “bad manners”; this is a case in point of that certainly. And if that is how UKIP roles then they can kiss goodbye to the manners brigade.

UKIP are taking quite a risk for this seat in Westminster. Carswell will become a big name for UKIP quite quickly, really he already is. He’s clever enough to do it anyway, but bringing home membership into the political big boys club for UKIP will make that solid. His libertarianism will not go unnoticed in the meantime.

Nor will UKIP’s disloyalty to the old guard, such as Roger Lord. Who wants to join a political party that jumps for the big names but shits on the long standing members? You may as well join the Tory party.

Carl Packman is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward

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12 Responses to “Accepting Carswell with open arms is actually a massive risk for UKIP”

  1. Dave Roberts

    So, is he a libertarian or a reactionary?

  2. Guest

    Ask him yourself next meeting.

  3. Leon Wolfeson

    I have a hard time believing any actual libertarian would touch the UKIP with a stick. Vulgar Libertarians, on the other hand…

  4. GhostofJimMorrison

    Spare us your crypto-Fascist, Zionist, Stalinist dogma, Wolfey.

  5. Leon Wolfeson

    Ah right, You’re a bitter little far right anti-Semite, frantically trying to silence me, because I dare speak and am Jewish.

    And I see *you’re* the one spamming as “Newsbot 9”. Well well.

  6. Cole

    Bit difficult for him to be fascist and Stalinist at the same time. You need to improve your insults – or learn some history.

  7. Michael Goodier

    It’s good for labour as it reinforces the idea that UKIP = Tory right. May weaken any swing from Labour to UKIP

  8. David Lindsay

    What a complete and utter shambles.

    Douglas Carswell voted for war in Syria. His views on the Middle East require some examination, actually. In fact, his whole record and his many stated opinions now require a great deal of examination if he is the “perfect fit” for UKIP that Nigel Farage called him today.

    The existing UKIP candidate at Clacton is refusing to stand down, instead offering to write Carswell a job reference. How about an open primary?

    All eyes are now on Daniel Hannan. His book with Carswell, The Plan, may now be read as the de facto UKIP manifesto. It is very true indeed to Hannan’s description of himself as a Radical Whig.

    Like Carswell, Hannan tellingly did not grow up in Britain. Indeed, unlike Carswell, he seems to have very little connection to this country beyond having attended a public school and an Oxbridge college. A sign of the “British” Right’s future, perhaps? Or of its present, come to that?

    You will never see a Labour MP’s defection to UKIP, and that says it all about UKIP’s allegedly broad appeal. So much for that, and so much for being anti-Establishment. The candidate in place has been sacked over the airwaves because the “LibLabCon” incumbent wanted it instead.

    It looks as if this is all going to be decided by the voters, when UKIP is going to split the UKIP vote. Roger Lord has offered to stand for the Conservatives (I’d keep my eye on Mark Clarke there), proving, as if proof were needed, that his former, but possibly future, party and his current one are interchangeable, with UKIP wholly parasitic on the immemorial Tory subculture.

    I am still available, Grant Shapps. You know where I am.

    What a complete and utter shambles.

  9. GhostofJimMorrison

    I realise this: I’m just throwing lazy, ill-thought accusations at him, as he so often does to others.

  10. Leon Wolfeson

    No, you’re doing it because you are lazy, both morally and intellectually, and hate Jews.

  11. swat

    Could be a plot by Cameron to get one of his men inside the UKIP camp and destroy UKIP from the inside. Not that they need any help in self inplosion or spontaneous combustion.
    Nige can manage that on his own, being a One Man Pressure Group.

  12. Leon Wolfeson

    There isn’t a significant one anyway. See the UK Polling Report tabs.

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