In August 2014 Douglas Carswell shocked the political world by announcing he was leaving the Conservative Party to join UKIP and in doing so triggered a by-election in his Clacton constituency which he subsequently won convincingly. He then went on to hold his seat in the 2015 General Election, but tensions with the top of the party and in particular Nigel Farage and the direction he was taking the party begun to come to the fore with Carswell calling for the UKIP leader to quit after the General Election in 2015.
More recently revelations have emerged about Carswell’s true motives for joining UKIP. In Owen Bennett’s book on Brexit The Brexit Club it is claimed that Carswell only joined UKIP to undermine Farage and stop UKIP and the UKIP leading running the ‘Out’ campaign for the EU referendum. Carswell is unrepentant about this and claims the success of the Brexit campaign justifies his decision and actions.
UKIP leader Paul Nuttall claimed he was hardly surprised by Carswell’s decision and that ‘Carswell had been becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the party’s direction of travel’, despite Carswell claiming recently he was ‘100% UKIP’. Former leader Nigel Farage long estranged from Carswell could not hide his joy saying the former UKIP MP ‘jumped before he was pushed’ and that now he should call a by-election in his Clacton seat.
Carswell has been unmoved by these calls and claimed that as he was not moving to a new party there was no need to call a by-election. This has not stopped Nigel Farage saying that Clacton residents will be contacted by UKIP to ask for their thoughts on whether a by-election should be called and has also cited Carswell’s support for the ‘recall principle’.
Carswell is correct to state that becoming an independent MP is different from moving from one party to another, but cannot hide from the fact that he will now no longer be obliged to follow the manifesto that he was elected on. Carswell was elected to serve as a UKIP MP by the constituents of Clacton. That was an important pledge Carswell made to his constituents. This pledge has been broken and should justify a by-election.
Carswell previously called his electorate in Clacton ‘his boss’. If this is something that Carswell still truly believes, then he should call a by-election as he did in 2014 and see whether he has the support to make this decision.