SMITH’S SOAPBOX: Bye-by-election – Carswell’s gone And why walking over a bridge is not 'defiant'

The sun is shining as I write this, with Spring approaching in its fullest, fervent, most beautiful and English way. And Douglas Carswell’s left UKIP.

I make that Pimm’s o’clock, don’t you?

Yes, Saturday was the day the majority of UKIP supporters were dreaming of – the party’s only MP (pictured above being interviewed by yours truly) has left the party and is now an Independent. He says he is doing so “cheerfully and amicably”, claiming that the party’s sole objective of winning a referendum on membership of the European Union has been completed. It is also worth noting that today – Monday 27th of March – was the day he was due to appear before the party’s National Executive Committee to answer questions regarding the longstanding charges raised against him that he has sought to undermine the party’s former leader Nigel Farage, including allegedly blocking the party’s internal campaign to ensure Farage was Knighted in Her Majesty’s New Years Honours. It’s also worth noting that the NEC has recently-elected headstrong members that are very much on the ‘Faragist’ wing of the party and have secured some reform to the party’s constitution, and coming up against them may have set-up a meeting akin to a snake going before a pack of mongooses, so perhaps Farage’s assertion that he jumped before he was pushed is accurate.

“There’s the door, Douglas”

Whatever side you take and whoever’s reasons you believe, the reality is Carswell is gone and the big question is: is there going to be a by-election? Well apparently not. Carswell says there is “no need” for one as he isn’t moving to a new party, but in 2015, Carswell wrote on by-elections:

“Think of it as a sort of confirmation hearing. Insist on a by-election to confirm your move with the electorate. It’s the only honourable way. Incidentally, there is no disgrace if they do say “No”. What would be disgraceful would be to live life subservient to people you cannot respect.”

I have written to Carswell (letter below) to ask him to explain this change in thought. Farage told Sky News yesterday that he will be ensuring all constituents of Clacton-on-Sea will be written-to to ask whether they feel he should call a by-election or not. Carswell, when appearing on BBC’s Sunday Politics up against current leader Paul Nuttall (who said he was “not surprised” by his decision to leave the party), said he had received many emails from constituents that supported him. Nuttall said that the party will be opening nominations for the candidate to run against him soon. Former UKIP donor Arron Banks – who has recently announced the formation of his new movement The Patriotic Alliance – has said he will “absolutely” stand against him if the opportunity arose.

But there is another question being begged here – why won’t he call a by-election?

It’s simple really. Clacton-on-Sea is one of the most Eurosceptic constituencies in Britain – a mouldy loaf of bread could win Clacton if a UKIP rosette had been baked into the dough. One of the reasons Carswell most likely joined the party in the wake of its Euro Elections boom in 2014 (as well as to ‘neutralise’ the ‘toxic’ Farage leadership as revealed in Owen Bennett’s The Brexit Club) was to ensure he was kept in a job. The momentum UKIP had at that time would have rendered Carswell’s position as an MP in serious danger had he remained with the Conservatives. It would seem to me that Carswell is merely biding his time to see if the Conservatives really implement and follow through with the Brexit that the majority of Kippers will be happy with, which will see him clear to rejoin and then win under a Tory moniker in the 2020 General Election. In which case, he is free to piggyback on the success Theresa May and her team will have made of the negotiations, just like he has attempted to piggyback on Farage’s 24 years of hard work, speaking to near-empty halls and establishments in order to secure a referendum that he pressured David Cameron into holding, which he then lost. I can’t help but feel that in his Clacton cubbyhole, Carswell is rubbing his hands together and laughing maniacally like a badly-caricatured Bond villain, believing that he has concocted the ultimate master plan, when in reality, it’s as transparent as a flat gin & tonic.

It’s difficult to say what Carswell really achieved in his time with UKIP. Yes, he retained his seat in a by-election and subsequently a General Election, but in the easiest and most winnable UKIP target seat available. Yes, he may have created an establishment Tory cabal within that has threatened to derail the party and hold-back the progress it was gathering, but neutralise Farage? Don’t make me laugh. Farage’s role with the unofficial Leave.EU group (not the official Vote Leave campaign that created ridiculous lies about funding the NHS, which Carswell supported) helped secure the Leave side to win the referendum. Since then, his work towards securing Brexit inspired the Trump campaign and its voters leading to his unexpected election win; he has befriended Trump as a result, and subsequently is one of the most popular foreign political figures to a great deal of the American public, as well as a contributor for Fox News and a regular host on LBC Radio. And Carswell is the Member of Parliament for Clacton-on-Sea. He came, he saw, and he conquered virtually nothing.

To the many of you who had been wishing for him to no longer be a part of UKIP for a long time, I give you this:

It’s the back of Douglas Carswell. I saw it for real on this occasion at the UKIP conference in September 2016.

Now we are all seeing the back of him.


Bridging the yap

Ubiquitous daytime TV ball-ache Philip Schofield made a gargantuan twonk of himself when took to his Instagram account to upload a photo of Westminster Bridge, which he proclaimed he walked across with “defiance” after the terrorist attack in which 52-year-old Khalid Masood killed five people, including an on-duty police officer.

In the modern world of social media folly, many took to Instagram to convey their sarcasm, with many suggesting an action movie will be made based on Schofield’s bridge-walking, and some offering their support of Schofield receiving the George Cross.

In any case, walking over a bridge is not an act of defiance. Hundreds have surely walked across that bridge since the attack in order to visit London, see the sights, go to work etc, are they all brave, defiant human beings? They’re just normal, like you and me. I’m not belittling the attack – far from it – and I’m not belittling the worry that many must be feeling when walking through London now, but it’s not going to make much difference to terrorists. They will attempt to strike again and no apparently-defiant walks across bridges, hashtags and Facebook profile photo-changes will alter that. Almost twelve years lapsed between last Wednesday’s attack and the capital’s last major security alert, and many things have to be done by the country’s security services to ensure that an even bigger, infinite number of years pass before the next one. In the meantime, London, its residents and its many visitors and tourists need to keep calm and carry on. It’s what makes us British; it’s what makes us great.


Top photograph credit: Thomas Cassidy

Apologies for the delay – mine and NMC UK Editor Sebastian Cheek’s podcast “Make America Great Britain Again” will premiere soon. Unfortunately both of us have been busy and have had little chance to get the show off the ground, but keep your peepers open, folks.

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