Charter 2010? I'm not convinced

An unhelpful take on a hung parliament

There's more chance of a hung parliament after the next election than at any point since 1974 and now a new campaign group has been launched calling on the parties to declare how they would handle such a result.

Charter 2010 hopes to secure a commitment from all leaders to transform a hung parliament into a "stable and representative" government that can focus on dealing with the economic crisis. The group's founding supporters include Robert Skidelsky, David Owen and Meghnad Desai.

It doesn't call for a Lib-Lab coalition or an alliance between Cameron and Clegg, merely a government "supported by more than one party". But the belief that the recession necessitates a government of national unity almost points towards a Labour-Tory grand coalition, a rather ludicrous idea first floated by Martin Kettle in the Guardian.

I don't think there's any chance of Charter 2010 achieving its aims (politicians don't deal in hypotheticals), but the unprecedented interest in a hung parliament will damage the Tories' morale.

Incidentally, I must take issue with the group's claim that constitutional reform is "an argument for another day" and that the economic crisis trumps all. This entirely ignores the relationship between Britain's dysfunctional economy and its outdated constitution. As the historian John Keane argues:

Let us remember the true cause of the deepest slump since the Great Depression: democracy failure bred market failure. Unelected regulatory bodies and elected politicians, parties and governments let citizens down.

There's something rather distasteful about the group deriving its name from the great Charter 88 (founded through the New Statesman) and then so casually dismissing the urgent need for constitutional reform.

 

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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Douglas Carswell leaves Ukip to become independent MP

The Clacton MP quits his party but insists he will not rejoin the Conservatives or trigger a by-election. 

Douglas Carswell has long been a Ukip MP in name only. Now he isn't even that. Ukip's sole MP, who defected from the Conservatives in 2014, has announced that he is leaving the party.

Carswell's announcement comes as no great surprise. He has long endured a comically antagonistic relationship with Nigel Farage, who last month demanded his expulsion for the sin of failing to aid his knighthood bid. The Clacton MP's ambition to transform Ukip into a libertarian force, rather than a reactionary one, predictably failed. With the party now often polling in single figures, below the Liberal Democrats, the MP has left a sinking ship (taking £217,000 of opposition funding or "short money" with him). As Carswell acknowledges in his statement, Brexit has deprieved Ukip of its raison d'être.

He writes: "Ukip might not have managed to win many seats in Parliament, but in a way we are the most successful political party in Britain ever. We have achieved what we were established to do – and in doing so we have changed the course of our country's history for the better. Make no mistake; we would not be leaving the EU if it was not for Ukip – and for those remarkable people who founded, supported and sustained our party over that period.

"Our party has prevailed thanks to the heroic efforts of Ukip party members and supporters. You ensured we got a referendum. With your street stalls and leafleting, you helped Vote Leave win the referendum. You should all be given medals for what you helped make happen – and face the future with optimism.

"Like many of you, 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."

Though Ukip could yet recover if Theresa May disappoints anti-immigration voters, that's not a path that the pro-migration Carswell would wish to pursue. He insists that he has no intention of returning to the Conservatives (and will not trigger a new by-election). "I will simply be the Member of Parliament for Clacton, sitting as an independent."

Carswell's erstwhile Conservative colleagues will no doubt delight in reminding him that he was warned.  

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.