This morning, Nigel “Thirsty” Farage informed everyone at the bar that he had a major announcement to make at 1100 hours sharp. What significant news did UKIP’s Oberscheissenfuehrer have to impart to an all too easily led press pack? Would he be giving up the smokes or going on the wagon, perhaps? Ah, but that would be an earth-shattering action too far. No, UKIP now had an MP. Perhaps.
It's the way he tells them
If one Tory MP could be said to fit the description unkindly bestowed by Bernard Ingham on John Biffen so many years ago – that he was “semi-detached” – it is Douglas “Kamikaze” Carswell, who represents the unfortunate voters of Clacton. Young Dave and his fellow jolly good chaps would have been more than happy to see him go – except that he is going to resign, and force a by-election.
Carswell will then stand as a UKIP candidate. Mil The Younger must be thinking that all his birthdays have come at once: UKIP and the Tories are about to engage in their own little local bloodbath, the issue of Europe has returned with a vengeance to bite Cameron, and Labour – plus the Lib Dems – need only get the popcorn in and watch what is bound to be a particularly nasty scrap.
Those who study past election results will have noticed that UKIP did not field a candidate in Clacton last time round. This meant the Tories had little problem racking up 53% of the popular vote – partly because UKIP gave Carswell their endorsement.. The constituency is popular with retirees: not for nothing did comedians once talk of “Harwich for the continent ... Frinton for the incontinent”.
Carswell and Farage will be hoping that many of those retirees – who also feature strongly in Walton (but only on the better side of the level crossing, don’t y’know) – take the Daily Express, aka Daily UKIP, of a morning. In this way, they will hope to prise enough lifelong Tory voters away from their natural home and into the realm of saloon bar propper-uppers populated by Mr Thirsty and his friends.
How will Cameron and his pal Gideon George Oliver Osborne, heir to the seventeenth Baronet, react? The Tories can’t just let the constituency go without a scrap, not after all the crap they threw at Pa Broon after the Election That Never Was. They are the incumbent party, they have to win the by-election – or suffer humiliation as a result. And there could be worse to come.
CCHQ will be desperately scouring the ranks for another Europhobe, while hoping that the two other MPs that were endorsed by UKIP in 2010 – Philip Davies in Shipley, and Philip Hollobone in Kettering, do not follow Carswell, who is full value for his “Kamikaze” nickname. The Tories have no happier outcome on the horizon than hanging on to Clacton and heading off a worse split.
How’s that overall majority next year looking? The EU issue gets them every time.