Carswell’s defection is good for Ukip, bad for the Tories but could be best of all for Labour

by Joe Coyne

I wonder if we’ll look back on Douglas Carswell’s resignation as the moment Labour won the general election.

His constituency is ripe Ukip territory. Old, white, not particularly well off.

If he gets in – and the bookies have made him odds on – it will show prospective Ukip voters that a vote for them is not necessarily a wasted vote. As a result we could be looking at a subtle but significant shift in the way  voters perceive Ukip.

While they’ve racked up plenty of support in recent local and European elections, the reality is that people tend to take their vote more seriously when they’re electing the next Prime Minister, rather than their local councillor.

But a breakthrough in Clacton could give them huge momentum and convince sympathisers that Ukip really are a serious option when it all gets serious next May and show a Ukip vote may well give you a Ukip MP.

Ukip have still got to win, and a lot can happen between now and polling day. Much will depend on Tory strategy but recent evidence suggests they’ll get it wrong and their tactics will make a Ukip victory more, rather than less likely.

What the Tories should do is position themselves as the anti-UKIP alliance; select a moderate, mildly Eurosceptic candidate and attack Ukip’s extremism and their competence by exposing the shallowness of their policies. That way they could draw in voters from other parties.

There’s no reason why the Tories can’t echo Labour’s warnings about the unfairness of a flat tax or the danger they pose to the NHS.

However, what I suspect they will do is foolishly play the game squarely on Ukip’s territory. Nigel Farage will want the by-election to be about Europe, immigration and welfare and the Tories will probably select a candidate and trumpet policies that they think will ‘appeal’ to Ukip voters, not realising that it’s a political dead end.

The lesson of the last three years in British politics is that you can’t outdo Ukip on the right. If you allow them to make it an arms race on those three issues, they will win because they have the most radical agenda. Dancing to Farage’s tune gets the Tories nowhere.

Where does this leave Labour? As the Aschroft research shows, the plain facts are that Ukip are taking more votes off Tories than they are from us. Half of Ukip’s Euro voters voted Tory in 2010 compared to the one in seven who voted Labour.

While there are seats, like Rotherham, where Ukip will fancy their chances of taking a Labour scalp, these are comfortably outnumbered by the number of Blue – Purple marginals. It comes down to this – for the Labour party’s chances of winning the next election it is far better that Ukip exist than if they didn’t.

Carswell’s resignation is good for Ukip and bad for the Tories, but it could be best of all for Labour.

Joe Coyne is a Labour activist who lives in London

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23 Responses to “Carswell’s defection is good for Ukip, bad for the Tories but could be best of all for Labour”

  1. Dave B says:

    Looking at the 2010 Conservatives/2010 Labour voters is only part of the story.

    If you look at the local elections, the difference between 2012, and 2013 suggests UKIP took more votes from Labour. (2010 Con>Lab switchers, moved to UKIP)

  2. K E says:

    Labour’s position was already pretty good, though not great, thanks to Tory weakness, but this is just the icing on the cake. If he wins, proof a UKIP vote need not be a wasted one should put paid to the, in any case probably small number, possibility of large scale returning to the Tory fold from Ukippers. Some may still, some may return to Labour, but more will be encouraged to stick with what they want, and although Labour are not immune to damaeg from UKIP, it hits the Tories a lot harder, as you point out.

    If I were a Labour supporter I’d be feeling pretty cocky right now, so it’s just about avoiding complacency and that should see you through.

  3. Someone says:

    I think you are doing the Conservative operation a disservice suggesting they will fight on UKIP’s turf. Lynton Crosby is a master of message politics and will most likely use it as an opportunity to test UKIP’s mettle. Carswell is a stick-on to win the seat again but whether this will be because of his UKIP-move or because he seems like a pretty decent kind of guy, is the real question.

  4. David says:

    Whatever happened to the time when Labour was interested in the voters of old, white, not well off people?

  5. The Fallen Angel says:

    You honestly don’t think this could be a serious issue for Labour either????

    What happens to all those disaffected voters in the (ex) industrial north who won’t vote Conservative but are small ‘c’ conservative in nature? To the aging white working class voters who are disaffected with a liberal metropolitan elite of MPs from ALL sides who they feel don’t represent them or their interests? To the large numbers of people in places like Rotherham, Oldham, Rochdale, Bradford, Blackburn etc who have been disgusted by the revelations of sexual abuse/grooming etc by gangs of muslim men against white girls?

    UKIP are the natural ‘protest’ vote for them and in vast swathes of northern England with an ineffective Conservative Party, a discredited and unpopular Liberal Democrat Party and sitting Labour MPs whose last government is, rightly or wrongly, blamed for the necessity of austerity where on earth can all these protest votes go?????

    At present UKIP look to me as the most likely beneficiary….they could certainly pick up a dozen or so constituencies and be a significant voice in the Commons in a hung parliament.

    (For the moment I’m ignoring the possibility of the Scots voting for independence and the resultant calls for all Scottish MPs to be barred from voting on legislation which will affect England on the grounds that they are leaving the union and won’t be affected by the time that legislation has worked its way through Parliament! That alone would probably make a majority Labour government impossible…)

    Carswell may just have started something which cannot be stopped and which could reshape British politics completely….

  6. Ian says:

    So, no policies, no answers, no apologies – this is Labours only hope of regaining power?

    You should be a proscribed organisation for the damage you have done to our country, not sneaking in the back door to wreak more havoc & spend more of our Grandchildren’s money.

  7. bob says:

    Labour are whistling in the dark, how many people in the NW voted UKIP in the local and European elections. Many Labour voters next year, will either sit on their hands or vote UKIP. You may gloat over Carswell but you have a problem also.

    All UKIP have to do is mention Rotherham and the silence from the leader of the Labour party, deputy leader, remember the implications of the PIE revelations, shadow Chancellor ( ex Education minister) many ex Home Secretaries, educations secretaries. The corruption of local government by unfortunately elected cabals and one party oligarchies, use of the implied or actual accusation of racism as a system of control and closing down debate. Remember Lambeth, Tower Hamlets Birmingham and Camden and its childcare scandals.


    UKIP represent a risk to all mainline parties, they talk at, but not listen to the electorate in we know what is better for you than you do and if you disagree, you are racist intolerant and bigoted. Remember Brown and his accusations of bigotry to Gillian Duffy in Rotherham at the last election, that peeled a very thin veneer to show truly, what the Labour Party, thinks of the electorate.

    Given my family history I should be a natural Labour voter, never voted labour am now leaning towards UKIP and I’m one of many people where I live to think this way as Labour assumes all working class people in Liverpool vote Labour. Look at the local council vote percentage and see how few actually vote per constituency, ripe for UKIP to pick up.

  8. Gentoo (@Gentoo1) says:

    “Carswell’s resignation is good for Ukip and bad for the Tories, but it could be best of all for Labour.”

    Perhaps, perhaps not, but this seems to miss the point. I’d like the next party to win the election becuase they offer leadership and policies that offer long term solutions for the country.

  9. Carl says:

    Great to see a Labour activist so enthusiastic about winning the election not because of anything Labour are doing right, but because of a party taking more votes from the opposition than Labour.

    Still I guess when your party is yet to present a coherent set of policies beyond a few populist soundbites and have a completely ineffective leader whose popularity horrendously trails his not especially popular party you take what you can get.

  10. fubarroso says:

    Kind of you to offer advice on how the Tories should tackle the UKIP threat in Clacton. I’m sure they value it highly.

    I wouldn’t be too sure about UKIP guaranteeing a Labour victory next year. You are right in that so far they have taken more votes from the Tories than from Labour, but there is quite a long time to go before the next election and more recent polls suggest that UKIP are now biting hard into Labour territory.

  11. adam pearson says:

    Interesting this story has got Labour foaming at the mouth, it’s a pity the outrage in Rotherham (and elsewhere) has been greeted with near silence from Labour’s hierarchy. Where is the great paragon of feminism, Harriet Harman? I guess preteen white girls don’t have much clout at the ballot box, but postal voting Asian communities do. How silly of me.

  12. Neil Jennison says:

    Maybe true. But then from where I stand, what’s the difference between a Labour government and a Cameron one? Maybe a subtle difference of emphasis, but both will implement disastrous left of centre tax and spend and borrow policies, both will legislate and intervene daily in people’s lives, both will trample civil liberties into the dirt, both will allow uncontrolled immigration and both are wedded to the EUSSR superstate – Labour are actually a little more honest on that last point.

    However, if I were a Labour supporter I would just be a little concerned too. Because there are plenty of northern Labour seats where UKIP could take votes too. Rotherham springs strongly to mind where Labour’s multicultural and politically correct obsessions have resulted in the rape of 1400 children while social services were more worried about UKIP supporters fostering children.

  13. David Raynes says:

    This article is wishful thinking by a Labour mouthpiece.

    He lives and works in London which says it all.

    The world outside the M25 and especially in the north, has changed, there are no certainties for any of the three main parties.

    People “in the bubble” , from wherever on the political spectrum, consistently get this wrong.

    UKIP are a grave threat to both Labour and the Tories.

  14. Alexsandr says:

    Yes Joe. You keep thinking UKIP will deliver a Labour government, that way Labour dont have to think of any decent policies.
    No answer to the Islam threat
    No answer to the deficit except make it bigger for our grandkids to pay back
    No answer to those saying we need to cut immigration.

    Remember rotherham elected 10 out of 21 Councillors from UKIP in may. Plenty of Northern votes dripping away to UKIP

  15. bob says:

    UKIP is so coming after Labour.

  16. Peter Davies says:

    You may well be right. Politics is a dirty game and if enough natural tories either don’t vote or go to UKIP and let Milliband and his crew in via the back door to wreak havoc on the economy I think all we will end up with is an unstable government and another election soon after.

    I’d rather not see another Labour govt because we all know what happens with socialist governance and another part of me wants to see the back of the EU superstate and the Blair copycat that is Cameron.

    Carswell is right when he says politics is done badly these days – Major was useless which left the door open for the biggest bunch of conmen we have ever seen come into power in 97′

    For me the least worst option in 2015 is a Tory/UKIP coalition. That’s what I suspect we could be looking at if the boundaries were fair. But given that Labour have a 20+ seat head start we may be looking at a Lib Dem/Lab administration until they fall apart 6-12 months down the line.

    Another scenario is that the Yes vote wins in Scotland and we’ll very unlikely see another labour govt again………

  17. Derek Emery says:

    Assuming the predicted Labour win one thing that should occupy minds will be the reactions of markets as the UK has an ever rising and virtually unstoppable debt where the rate of climb of unfunded liabilities is far beyond any likely achievable economic growth. Mind the ever widening fiscal gap.

    Markets can be guaranteed to react negatively to all left wing governments because of their very poor record of financial and economic competence which is directed associated with left wing policies. As Mitterand, as Hollande, as Miliband.

    The second thing is that large companies are not going to queue up to be spanked by Miliband. There are many other parts of the world that can offer far higher FOIs without government interference and which have high growth rates and a far less ageing population thus making staffing easier.

  18. John reid says:

    Blimey I agree with Alexandsr

  19. chrisb says:

    I suggest you watch what’s happening in Rotherham and what it says about Labour politics at its most rotten. Do you really believe that the electorate will not react to a party that will do anything to keep the paedophile vote?

  20. David Morgan says:

    If the scots are taken in by Salmond, s pie in the sky bluster and scots mp, s are barred from Westminster its hard to see how labour will ever have a majority again. This is the elephant in the room that the labour hieracy dread and dare not articulate.

  21. BenM says:


    “UKIP is so coming after Labour.”

    Not really that worried.

    UKIP will always peel off more traditional Tory voters hobbling that Party’s electoral chances, probably for good.

  22. BenM says:

    “Assuming the predicted Labour win one thing that should occupy minds will be the reactions of markets ”

    They said this as a warning in 2010, yet with Osborne aboout to borrow £200bn more than he said in 2015, this hoary chestnut doesn’t really scare anyone any more.

    “Markets can be guaranteed to react negatively to all left wing governments because of their very poor record of financial and economic competence”

    In the US and the UK it is rightwing governments with the worst records on jobs, deficits and debt.

  23. John Reid says:

    BenM, 200 million borrowing is nothing compared to what E M ,has suggested.regarding Ukip, you have no idea in the Midlands, how many labour voters are going Ukip.

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