Congratulations Mr Carswell

After waking up to this morning’s news, it is only right that we make some comment on Douglas Carswell’s election to parliament as a Ukip MP.

Douglas Carswell is a fine politician. Indeed, he used to be a member of Conservative for Liberty’s advisory board. That puts us in a difficult position. A man we agree with on many issues is now a member of a different party – a party that is currently shifting to the left and becoming ever more distant from what we believe is best for the country. A party which continues to change its mind on key issues.

Speaking personally, I still haven’t quite come to terms with his defection. To have one of your political heroes make a move you disagree with so deeply is a bit of a blow.

Europe

The Conservative Party is offering a referendum on the EU. That the leadership is presently in favour of continuing membership of the EU does not change the reality of a referendum. We are firmly of the view that anyone who is a Eurosceptic (and we certainly are) should not be working to put this referendum at risk.

Daniel Hannan (our own honorary President), put it better than I ever could:

“I’ve explained before why I won’t join UKIP, and I don’t intend to keep repeating myself. Had my party not embraced an In/Out referendum, it would have been a different story. But it did – and UKIP is in denial about it. It almost makes me weep to think that the chance to leave the EU will be lost because of partisan rivalry between the two Right-of-Centre parties.”

The ‘threat’ of Ed Miliband becoming Prime Minister might seem laughable, but Ukip makes it a real possibility. And then it’s bye-bye to our much desired & needed EU referendum.

Where next for Ukip

Carswell’s election makes the next steps for Ukip uncertain. The libertarian wing of the party, so recently pushed to the side in a range of leftist, statist policy proposals, will feel re-invigorated.

But what does this mean for Farage’s current plan of parking his tanks on Labour’s front lawn?

Will Douglas Carswell abandon his broadly sound principles in for Ukip’s electoral success?

I hope that Carswell, a man I admire, does not.

Or are we about to see a bust-up between the electorally minded party leadership, and the party’s only MP?

Well. That would make things a bit more interesting – and go some way to revealing Ukip’s deep division to the public.

And where for the Conservative Party?

However tempting it may be to denigrate Carswell or Ukip, I urge my fellow Conservatives most strongly: don’t do it.

Our party is at its strongest when it is offering a positive vision for the future of the country. Negative campaigning and slurs – which often target not only Ukip but the people intending to vote Ukip (only achieving a hardening of that vote) – do not win elections. We will win this battle by convincing people that the Conservative Party is better, not by telling people that Ukip is worse.

We know what we believe. We know that a Conservative majority government is the best thing for this country. So let’s focus on that.


Emily Barley is Chairman of Conservatives for Liberty.