When I wrote yesterday that UKIP’s future looks to feature a big fight between its various factions, I hadn’t expected it to start in earnest until after the election. Even with a lot of underlying tensions visible in the current battles over candidate selection, I had assumed that the prospect of electoral success would paper over the cracks in the short term but Douglas Carswell appears to have decided not to wait. (That’s a Daily Mail link, just so you’re warned)
Carswell’s going over some old ground here, as it’s close to the message of his victory speech after the Clacton by-election. It’s pretty much the credo of the libertarian wing of the party (the second wave of Alex Harrowell’s three UKIPs) and it’s interesting that Carswell feels that now is the time to restate that. Amidst all the speculation about who might be UKIP#s candidate in which seat, and which seats they might win, Carswell holding Clacton appears to be something everyone is assuming. Given that relative security, is he taking the opportunity to play a longer game?
The problem for Carswell is that libertarianism is still about as popular now as it was when the first wave of libertarians started trying to ally themselves with UKIP, and I think we can safely assume – given what we’ve seen of them – that their latest wave of recruits aren’t teeming with libertarians. However, there are a number of people who want a libertarian UKIP amongst wealthy donors and the right-wing commentariat. Yet again, we’re back to the interesting effects of the UKIP leadership electoral system. To make Carswell leader, they don’t need 50% of the party to support him, just one vote more than the rest of them get. By building up his profile now and trying to drag a few more libertarians into the fold (and I think we can assume Carswell’s leadership campaign, when it happens, will be pretty well funded), he becomes a much more credible candidate. He can afford to take the time now to raise his profile, and hope it pays off when the time comes.