mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
UKIP If You Want To
Tory MP Shocks Westminster with Switch to UKIP

A prominent young Tory Member of Parliament, Douglas Carswell, left the Conservative Party for UKIP on Wednesday, shocking the British establishment. Carswell, a libertarian-leaning Conservative known as a champion of open primaries, took the rare, old-fashioned step of resigning at the same time as he switched parties, so that his constituents could register their approval or otherwise. The BBC reports:

If he wins the support of voters he will be the first elected UK Independence Party MP in the Commons. […]

On Mr Cameron’s pledge of an in/out EU referendum in 2017, after renegotiating powers back from Brussels, he said the prime minister’s advisers had “made it clear that they’re looking to cut a deal that gives them just enough to persuade enough voters to vote to stay in”.

He added: “Once I realised that, my position in the Conservative Party became untenable.”

One MP does not a party make, and UKIP still has a long way to go before it is more than a protest vote. Furthermore, the UK has a long history of eccentric if gifted MPs splitting off to smaller parties, particularly from the Conservatives. Most of the time, both those parties and their careers have sputtered out.

Still, the defection of Carswell, who commands respect on both sides of the aisle, cannot but be seen as a blow to PM Cameron and a boost for UKIP. He is certainly UKIP’s highest-profile “get” so far, and his defection could make the next one easier, as well as more likely. Some of the people being named in connection with Carswell—John Redwood, Liam Fox—are heavy hitters. Furthermore, Carswell’s libertarianism will probably prove a useful counterbalance to UKIP’s increasingly populist direction. If this doesn’t tear the young party apart, it could actually be a promising sign, as the same tension lies at the heart of most successful right-wing parties in the Anglosphere. Indeed, the tension in UKIP seems to mimic the divide in the Canadian right, one which eventually led to a revivified Conservative consensus in Canada under PM Stephen Harper.

That UKIP echoes Canada more than, say, the FN in France is no coincidence: British dissatisfaction with the post-war,European consensus is taking a far more mild, Anglospheric turn than the resurgent neofascism on the Continent. One interesting twist, however: with regards to the upcoming Scottish referendum, it might actually be in UKIP’s interest for that other disaffected group, the Scottish National Party, to win. After all, Britain without Labour-heavy, leftist Scotland would be a good deal more likely to vote to leave the EU.

On the other hand, if UKIP gets its wish and the United Kingdom exits the European Union, Scotland will almost certainly exit the United Kingdom. UKIP may actually be EIP, the English Independence Party; that would be ironic. Many UKIP voters want to enhance Britain’s power and prestige; losing Scotland (and perhaps Wales) might not be the best way to achieve that.

UKIP is not a party of racism and hate like some springing up on the continent in these dark days; that doesn’t, however, mean that it has a viable program for resolving the foreign policy dilemmas that have bedeviled Britain since the end of World War Two.

Features Icon
show comments
  • LarryD

    Sometimes a dilemma is irresolvable. The only way groups with significant differences can live in the same polity is if they live in seperate districts with considerable autonomity. This also requires they leave each other alone. Basically, the way the U.S. used to be.

    Without this, partition may be the only peaceful solution. If all sides are willing to let each other be.

    • Corlyss

      I’m not sure that is the case. Certainly seems to be so in many countries were communities are severely stressed and the state either is ineffectual or lacks complete domination of legitimate force, especially where ancient tribal animosities are lashed together as a result of the end of formal colonial empires.

      I think mutual need is the most durable link between disparate groups. That’s certainly seems to be the case for nations that engage in a lot of trade and particularly those regions within nations that actually deal with traders from other groups, like coastal areas. They’re so much more liberal, tolerant, and far less doctrinaire than landlocked and isolated places.

      The Left has made diversity an end in itself without paying due deference to the fact that idle tolerance is hostile to human nature without some supporting infrastructure, like need that smooths through rough edges of hostility to The Other.

      • lukelea

        Diversity is a bitch.

  • Maynerd

    UKIP’s rise appears to be at least partly a response to Tory europhile elitism and unbridled immigration.

    Currently, more than half the population of London consists of immigrants. London is booming with “oligarch” safe haven cash and cheap immigrant labor but that does not axiomatically improve the lot of the middle and lower classes. Intentional (or unintentional) wage suppression and rising rents in London are forcing many young, capable, and employed Londoners to live with their parents.

    Sound familiar?

    • Corlyss

      Unemployment among the 18-34 crowd is about as bad there as it is here. For years we could stand on a knoll and lecture the EU about its wretched labor problems, but instead, now with Doofus and his true believers running things, we have become them.

  • Corlyss

    I would certainly hope that UKIP can muster more MPs than the execrable Green party that at last count had one.

  • lukelea

    Isn’t it time we consider an across-the-board immigration moratorium (pause, time-out) until we can decide what kind of country we want to be? Nobody voted for what we have now.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service