The Tories know Douglas Carswell is anything but stupid. Photo: Getty
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Tories criticising Douglas Carswell should remember there aren't just two choices for 2015

If Carswell wins his by-election, and the potential momentum that could give Ukip, an EU referendum will look more likely – and the renegotiation would suddenly look very different.

So, the Tory logic goes, Douglas Carswell is just plain wrongheaded. Resigning and moving to Ukip makes an Ed Miliband victory more likely in 2015, whereas the only way of making sure the country is given a choice on membership of the European Union is seeing David Cameron back in Downing Street.

The Spectator’s Fraser Nelson was saying it all over again yesterday when he stated that if Carswell was serious about Europe he would never have defected:

“But next June, we’ll have one of two options: David Cameron in No 10, and a referendum in 2017 or Ed Miliband and no referendum”

Trouble is – as I suspect most bright Tories like Nelson know only too well – that’s not the only choice.

It pre-supposes that there can only be two governments – Tory or Labour majorities. It neatly ignores the fact that we don’t have either right now – we have a coalition (much as the Tories like to forget it when it suits). And given the current polling arithmetic, we most likely won’t have a Tory or Labour majority government next time either.

When that happens, the “purist” manifestos of all the parties go out of the window, and the plan for the coming five years of government boils down to either what a minority government can get through parliament or what potential coalition partners can thrash out in however long the City gives them to form a semi-sensible plan for five years of government in the days after the election.

Of course, any Labour government or Labour-led coalition has set its face against an EU referendum.

But we might well have a Tory minority government, which may want to hold a referendum but would have neither the electoral mandate nor the parliamentary numbers to get it through. We might have another Lib-Con government – in which case the Lib Dems would veto any referendum talk.

Or, were the polls to leave the Conservatives just short of a majority, they may well end up looking not to the Lib Dems, but to the smaller parties for support. And if Ukip have not the solitary seat many expected them to gain (via Farage) in 2015, but four or five seats, they might well (with the DUP) find themselves supporting the government.

For which they would extract a fairly hefty price. The EU renegotiation would suddenly look very different. Plus the blueprints that Carswell has been outlining for the Tories in government might get pushed over the table adorned with a Ukip logo – and ironically have more chance of becoming a reality

When Farage looked like being the only likely Ukip winner in 2015, this seemed a forlorn pipe dream. But with polling suggesting Carswell will win his by-election, and the potential momentum that could give Ukip, suddenly it all becomes a bit more likely.

Which is of course what Carswell really wants.

It’s interesting that the Tories use words like “regrettable”, “counter-productive” and “bizarre”. But they don’t call it stupid – because they know Carswell is anything but that.

Richard Morris blogs at A View From Ham Common, which was named Best New Blog at the 2011 Lib Dem Conference

Photo: André Spicer
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“It’s scary to do it again”: the five-year-old fined £150 for running a lemonade stand

Enforcement officers penalised a child selling home-made lemonade in the street. Her father tells the full story. 

It was a lively Saturday afternoon in east London’s Mile End. Groups of people streamed through residential streets on their way to a music festival in the local park; booming bass could be heard from the surrounding houses.

One five-year-old girl who lived in the area had an idea. She had been to her school’s summer fête recently and looked longingly at the stalls. She loved the idea of setting up her own stall, and today was a good day for it.

“She eventually came round to the idea of selling lemonade,” her father André Spicer tells me. So he and his daughter went to their local shop to buy some lemons. They mixed a few jugs of lemonade, the girl made a fetching A4 sign with some lemons drawn on it – 50p for a small cup, £1 for a large – and they carried a table from home to the end of their road. 

“People suddenly started coming up and buying stuff, pretty quickly, and they were very happy,” Spicer recalls. “People looked overjoyed at this cute little girl on the side of the road – community feel and all that sort of stuff.”

But the heart-warming scene was soon interrupted. After about half an hour of what Spicer describes as “brisk” trade – his daughter’s recipe secret was some mint and a little bit of cucumber, for a “bit of a British touch” – four enforcement officers came striding up to the stand.

Three were in uniform, and one was in plain clothes. One uniformed officer turned the camera on his vest on, and began reciting a legal script at the weeping five-year-old.

“You’re trading without a licence, pursuant to x, y, z act and blah dah dah dah, really going through a script,” Spicer tells me, saying they showed no compassion for his daughter. “This is my job, I’m doing it and that’s it, basically.”

The girl burst into tears the moment they arrived.

“Officials have some degree of intimidation. I’m a grown adult, so I wasn’t super intimidated, but I was a bit shocked,” says Spicer. “But my daughter was intimidated. She started crying straight away.”

As they continued to recite their legalese, her father picked her up to try to comfort her – but that didn’t stop the officers giving her stall a £150 fine and handing them a penalty notice. “TRADING WITHOUT LICENCE,” it screamed.


Picture: André Spicer

“She was crying and repeating, ‘I’ve done a bad thing’,” says Spicer. “As we walked home, I had to try and convince her that it wasn’t her, it wasn’t her fault. It wasn’t her who had done something bad.”

She cried all the way home, and it wasn’t until she watched her favourite film, Brave, that she calmed down. It was then that Spicer suggested next time they would “do it all correctly”, get a permit, and set up another stand.

“No, I don’t want to, it’s a bit scary to do it again,” she replied. Her father hopes that “she’ll be able to get over it”, and that her enterprising spirit will return.

The Council has since apologised and cancelled the fine, and called on its officials to “show common sense and to use their powers sensibly”.

But Spicer felt “there’s a bigger principle here”, and wrote a piece for the Telegraph arguing that children in modern Britain are too restricted.

He would “absolutely” encourage his daughter to set up another stall, and “I’d encourage other people to go and do it as well. It’s a great way to spend a bit of time with the kids in the holidays, and they might learn something.”

A fitting reminder of the great life lesson: when life gives you a fixed penalty notice, make lemonade.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.