When Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless decided that they could no longer support Conservative Party policies in August and September 2014 respectively, and that they were going to join UKIP I wrote of their integrity in going to their constituents through the calling of by-elections. This is despite the fact that I personally disagree with the political position held by both men before and after their defection from the Conservative Party. I have watched the way in which certain members of UKIP have publicly trolled Carswell in recent months and frankly I think this behaviour shows up the party as being unsuited for any form of meaningful public leadership, whatever disagreements they might have with Carswell.
In his decision to leave UKIP which I understand and respect I find myself in fundamental disagreement with Carswell over his tactics which reflect an approach that I have found equally disturbing in the case of many ‘failed’ politicians in the past. Douglas said “I switched to UKIP because I desperately wanted us to leave the EU. Now we can be certain that that is going to happen, I have decided that I will be leaving UKIP.” he added “I will not be switching parties, nor crossing the floor to the Conservatives, so do not need to call a by election, as I did when switching from the Conservatives to UKIP. I will simply be the Member of Parliament for Clacton, sitting as an independent.”
Having stood as an Independent candidate in an election in 2012 and paid a huge price to oppose members of all parties I do not believe that the Independent Political label should be in the bargain basement for men and women who have been rejected from their parties or have turned their backs on a party which ensured they were elected. We have seen it on many occasions over the last 15 years as UKIP MEPs in the South East have been turfed out of the party due to disgrace, or indeed have chosen to leave the party of their own volition. It is also something that members of the main parties have done in recent years such as the Tories in Adur who fell out with their party or a number of Tories or Labour MPs who have had the whip removed because of their behaviour.
If Douglas was willing to treat Independence as a precious stone of great price, I would fully respect him for sitting as an Independent MP although I do believe party leavers should spend time before claiming Independence. He stated there was a “political cartel” in the UK and he wanted to be part of “far-reaching change” as an independent MP. Those are statements I fully agree with. As far as UKIP itself is concerned I find it deeply ironic that Arron Banks who was one of those who trolled Douglas, who himself recently left the party demanding the return of £200,000 of his ‘donations’ continues to speak about this as if he is still a leading member. If Banks believes that Carswell should go back to the electorate on this occasion, why did he not challenge MEPs such as Diane James and Janice Atkinson to do the same? However I find myself in agreement with Banks that leaving a party should be a matter that triggers an election, even a party I feel has no real credibility. Forming the Independent bench in Westminster cost Martin Bell dear and set a high bar for others to try to follow, it seems very sad that Douglas Carswell is to join a tawdry list of men who have been thrown out of their party and attempted to sit on the same bench, rather than a much shorter list of people like Martin who submitted themselves to the full scrutiny of an election.