In political parties backbench MPs and members of the party are usually free to criticise the leadership if they wish, to seek change to policies and to ask for changes at the top. I find it disappointing if not surprising that Mr Farage has reacted so angrily to Mr Carswell’s question as to whether UKIP now needs new leadership with a different approach to its policies and its message.
Mr Carswell is still the only person to have managed to win a Westminster seat in UKIP colours at a General election. It is true he had previously won the seat as a Conservative, and only won again in 2015 for UKIP with a reduced majority. He has, however, both won a by election and a General election for UKIP in a single seat, something which has always eluded Mr Farage. Maybe Mr Farage could learn from Mr Carswell’s different language and approach to politics. If UKIP are sensible they will not seek to embarrass their only MP through some public denunciation, and will instead invite him into private talks about the direction of their party.
The crucial task now for UKIP must be to put much else aside and to help win the referendum for Leave, as that presumably remains their prime reason for existing. For the Out campaign to win, we first need to understand the numbers. Let us begin with current national polling intentions (average of recent polls):
Liberal Democrat 7%
To win the referendum we need at least 51% of the vote. We should be able to assume that all UKIP voters will vote for Leave. It would be odd indeed to be a keen supporter of UKIP but not to believe in their central proposition. A majority of Conservatives wish to leave. We need to get the proportion up to 70%, which is roughly the proportion of Conservative members who wish to leave. Labour is a pro Stay in party, but we should be able to call on at least one quarter of Labour voters, as there is a long standing left of centre anti EU tradition as well. Labour voters do not want the EU’s trade treaty provisions with US corporates and are worried about the influence of big business on EU policy generally. We would then need to pick up 5% from the rest:
Contributions to Leave vote
Possible sources of votes in the overall referendum to win for Leave
These figures remind us it could be a tight result. It should also warn us that crucial to winning will be reassuring Labour and other voters that voting to leave is safe and sensible, restoring our democracy and returning more of our money to spend as we see fit. That’s why we now need messages which unite our side, and bring more people to agree with us. The uniting message must be to restore control, to bring back our democracy. There is no point and considerable danger in trying to push out an ever narrower and more sceptic message to the faithful, when we need to win over the waverers.