The most puzzling aspect of Douglas Carswell’s defection to Ukip is that he had got what he most wanted: a promise of an in/out EU referendum from David Cameron. Indeed, the PM has gone further and vowed to resign if he is to unable to deliver on his pledge after the general election. At his press conference with Nigel Farage this morning, Carswell declared that the Tories were not seeking “real change” in Britain’s relationship with the EU. But if true, this still leaves him and others free to campaign for a No vote when the referendum comes (something, as I noted yesterday, that only Tories have guaranteed).
It’s for this reason that many of Carswell’s eurosceptic colleagues are bemused and angered by his decision. Bill Cash, the EU’s most vociferous parliamentary critic, accused him of “self-defeating political vanity” and said he would help put Ed Miliband in No.10.
I’ve just been speaking to John Redwood, another famed eurosceptic, who told me that he didn’t understand Carswell’s decision. He saidL
It’s a curious decision by Douglas, it’s too late really. I could just about have understood it if he had defected a couple of years ago, when he and I and others were pressing for the Conservative Party to say that the EU relationship didn’t work, we were pressing for a renegotiation, and we were pressing for the promise of a referendum. I would have urged him then not to do it, I would have thought we could probably win in five.
Now we’ve won it’s very curious to leave, isn’t it? I want to stay and see it through. My message to Douglas, if he’d told me beforehand, would have been ‘look, we’re very close to winning now, we’ve got the offers we want, and we’ve got to see it through and deliver.’ If he is seriously worried that the Prime Minister won’t negotiate a strong enough package, he needn’t worry because the British people will then vote to get out; you’ve got the popular lock on the door that Douglas always wanted.
Redwood added that he thought it was “extremely unlikely” that others would follow Carswell and defect. “I couldn’t name anybody who’s going to do that, and I know most of them pretty well. There’s nobody as independent as Douglas. I wouldn’t have been able to predict Douglas’s movements, because he always operated largely on his own.”