Saturday, October 11, 2014

MP Resigns Seat and Gets Elected Again For Same Seat

In some respects that really is it.  Clacton has re-elected its old MP to continue being its MP.  Douglas Carswell had always been an active and energetic constituency MP with a high profile, and the recent by-election has proved it.  He is also too well versed in constitutional and parliamentary lore not to be aware that voters essentially are meant to select the man and not the party.  There was in fact no real reason for him to resign at all, but then where would have been the splash, and the fun, in that?

Of course the UKIP factor is important, but it would be foolish to deny the impact that Carswell the ex-MP, candidate, and new MP, had on the by-election in Clacton.  He himself acknowledged that the result in Labour Heywood and Middleton represented a much more significant achievement for UKIP - though not, it should be added, one that actually brought them a seat. Again.  It will be interesting to see if the less well-entrenched  Mark Reckless can pull off a similar feat in Rochester and Strood.  If he does, it might start to look like a UKIP bandwagon, and it will certainly look like one that deals more hammer blows at the Tories than it does at Labour.

But by-election mania is nothing new.  Nick Robinson, in his prescient blog post on the Clacton result and the "Rise of UKIP", references the SDP of the 1980s, and he might have gone on to note that - like UKIP today - the SDP won huge by-election victories, which unlike UKIP took seats from both parties, but like UKIP relied quite heavily on personality politics to do so.

 UKIP - and more particularly Carswell - have done well.  They have made history.  Whatever the panicked reactions of the main parties though (and Scotland showed us how good they are at panicking at every polling opportunity) UKIP isn't yet on a roll, and their speciality does seem to be victory on low turn-outs (the European elections, a 51.2% turnout in Clacton and a mere 36% in Heywood).  They make a lot of noise, cause weak leaders to worry, and fill a lot of space in the 24-hour news cycle.  But they're not a mould-breaking phenomenon yet, any more than the SDP were.


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