Over at Conservative Home, Paul Goodman has taken a light-hearted look at the possibilities for the Tories in the upcoming Clacton by-election, triggered by the decision of Douglas “Kamikaze” Carswell to jump ship and join Nigel “Thirsty” Farage and his fellow saloon bar propper-uppers at UKIP. The options, as he sees it, include bodyswerving the contest altogether, and a variety of other scenarios.
Although it has apparently been discussed, the idea that the Tories would not turn up to defend one of their safer seats would bring ridicule upon Young Dave and his pal Gideon George Oliver Osborne, heir to the seventeenth Baronet, who famously mocked Pa Broon for not going to the country in 2007. It would also call into question the credibility of the by-election fighting machine led by Grant “Spiv” Shapps.
On top of that, as Goodman has noted, sending in a “star” candidate such as London’s occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson would hardly improve the Tories’ chances. But there was another scenario: to fight a dirty campaign. And here we come to yesterday’s remarkable revelation by Carswell on Twitter about an approach from a Telegraph hack.
“Tim Walker of [the Telegraph] texts to ask if it is true that ‘you had a stroke some years ago’ [my emphasis]. Seriously. This is the level of briefing in SW1” told Carswell, having concluded that this was probably a Tory Party smear operation. He might also have asked why someone whose Twitter bio calls a “diarist and theatre critic” was asking such a question, and at such a time.
Walker replied “No ‘briefing’: this was a reasonable question. As [I] told you, I’d hoped to run a piece to raise awareness of [The Stroke Association]”. Unfortunately, The Stroke Association then chipped in with “Him Tim, please do get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0207 566 1500 if we can help at all”, suggesting that he had not been in touch with them earlier. Was he making it up as he went along?
Moreover, the suggestion that this was a dirty tricks operation routed via the Tory Party’s most eager mainstream press supporter was only reinforced when Michael Ashcroft – who knows a thing or two about election campaigns, and from a Tory Party point if view – responded to Carswell’s comment “This is the level of briefing in SW1” with “Probably!” Walks and quacks like a duck, and all that.
Meanwhile, Walker was busily trying to get Twitter to “look over there” with yet another intervention that had little relevance to his usual brief: “Over Sir Cliff Richard & Ashya King, surely we are now reaching the point where some people ought to be considering their positions?” he mused. Perhaps those considering their positions might also include the clumsier shit-slingers from the Telegraph?
It’s looking like the Tories are going to fight dirty in Clacton. No change there, then.