Today we awake to find that Clacton has the same MP with the same views as it had before the by election, and to find that Labour has once again won the Heywood and Middleton seat. It’s a strange “earthquake” that leaves Parliament with the same voting balance on matters Eurosceptic, and one of the same people.
If UKIP had won in Heywood I would have welcomed that. An extra Eurosceptic vote and the replacement of a federalist Labour MP with one who would support a new relationship with the EU and an In/Out referendum would have been welcome. Mr Carswell will be able to do less as a UKIP Eurosceptic than he could do as a Conservative one, because he will no longer have a voice and vote within a large Parliamentary party. He will need to rebuild some of his links with us Conservative Eurosceptics if he wants other MPs to back any of his proposals, second any of his motions and help him get some airtime in a Parliament which requires numbers to achieve things.
It will be interesting to see how the Farage/Carswell relationship works. Mr Carswell already sounds at variance with his new Leader over immigration, and sounds as if he fancies being the UKIP leader. In the Commons, of course, Mr Carswell will be the UKIP Leader – and Chief Whip, and spokesman on every topic. It will have the fortunate consequence for him that he will never have to rebel against his own Parliamentary whip, but for Mr Farage it will mean there is now a very independent voice speaking for UKIP who may not be the same as Mr Farage.
On balance I fear last night has slightly weakened the overall Eurosceptic cause.
It was interesting to see how much Lib Dem support has vanished now they are so clearly the most pro EU option available. In Clacton their vote collapsed from 12.9% to 1.4%, and in Heywood from 22.7% to 5%. This too has helped Labour hold a seat for its more moderate pro EU stance.