Thursday, 9 October 2014

Good by-election

Douglas Carswell - former Conservative MP for Clacton, and now UKIP candidate in today's Clacton by-election - is almost certainly going to retain his seat in Parliament, and become UKIP's first MP.  Which I find a little odd.

The thing is, voting UKIP is a protest - a kick in the teeth to the corpulent, self-serving, disinterested complacency of the political establishment.  It is a vote for change.  A vote for a different kind of politics - not for 'more of the same'.  Which is why it is a little strange, then, to cast this anti-establishment vote for somebody who, until only a few weeks ago, was as much a part of the ruling elite as any other politician in the mainstream parties.

Mr Carswell is clearly popular with the people of Clacton; at the last general election, he achieved a majority of over 12,000 votes.  But to be so disaffected with 'business as usual' in politics that you vote to maintain the status quo is a bit unusual, isn't it?

Mr Carswell's highly probable re-election in Clacton is likely to owe as much to the benefits of incumbency and local voters' familiarity with him as a candidate as it is to UKIP's rising popularity as a party.

Much more interesting, as a barometer of the political mood, will be the concurrent by-election in Heywood & Middleton.  Following the death of Labour MP Jim Dobbin in September, this is a by-election campaign with no incumbent fighting to retain the seat - it is expected that Labour will hold this constituency, but UKIP's progress here will tell us a lot more about their fortunes ahead of next year's general election than the 'coronation' of an already popular defector could ever hope to.

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