Could Douglas Carswell be a Trotskyite in disguise?

This defection to Ukip may help Ed Miliband become the next PM and scupper an EU referendum

Share

Douglas Carswell's book, The End of Politics, contains only one joke, but it is a good one. In it he argues: "Politics is dead. As a process for deciding how most Western democracies are governed, politics has come to an end." No, that isn't the joke. Bear with him. He concedes that, "of course, elections still happen". Indeed, there will be one in his own constituency, Clacton, to decide whether the people still want him to represent them in the House of Commons now that he has defected from the Conservatives to Ukip.

The voters in his Essex seaside constituency will, however, be wasting their time, he seems to argue: "Those whom voters elect in Britain, America, Japan and Europe no longer decide what government does." No, that isn't the joke either. Patience. He goes on: "We have reached the stage where government has grown so big, there is simply too much public policy for the public – or their elected representatives – to have much say. A technocratic elite has taken over."

This elite wields immense power, says Carswell. Its Treasury branch – Treasury civil servants rather than elected ministers – decides all questions of tax and spending. It built tower blocks that no one wanted in the 1950s, and it caused the 2008 recession.

After it had caused the recession, the elite then nationalised the banks to help to get us out of it. So far, so much like an Owen Jones of the right. Jones, my former colleague, has just written a strikingly similar book called The Establishment. But at this point Carswell's sense of humour surfaces unexpectedly to save the day. This elite is so powerful, he says, that the 2008 banks rescue "was done by the kind of executive decree Charles I would have died for. And indeed did."

You can forgive wild people who believe we are ruled by the equivalent of lizards if they come up with lines like that. But it doesn't make Carswell's views any more sensible. Presumably, he excludes himself from his strictures about a political class too feeble to resist the power of the unaccountable elite, although with admirable modesty he never says so explicitly. The closest he came was in his news conference with Nigel Farage last week, when he said: "Few [politicians] are animated by principle or passion. Those that are soon get shuffled out of the way." He never got shuffled into the way in the first place, of course, but the implication was that this was because his principle and passion were so fierce.

Presumably, the solution would be for more politicians like Carswell, who are in touch with the people and who are motivated by principle and passion, to break open government and make it accountable.

Some of this makes sense. He should be praised for presenting himself for re-election under his new party colours. The last time an honourable member did this honourable thing was in 1982, when Bruce Douglas-Mann defected from Labour to the SDP, and lost his seat to the Tories in the by-election.

But much of Carswell makes no sense. He wants to get Britain out of the EU, but encouraging people to vote Ukip, paradoxically, makes that less likely. The person most pleased about his defection was not Farage, who now faces a serious rival for the Ukip leadership, but Ed Miliband, the invisible Labour leader. No matter how hard Farage tries to persuade us that Ukip is a blue-collar protest movement appealing equally to Labour and Tory voters, Ukip is still holding on to a larger group of disaffected Tories than of alienated Labourites. So, if Carswell's defection and near-certain by-election victory help Ukip, they will also make it (slightly) more likely that Miliband will be prime minister next year. That means a more pro-EU government, which will not hold a referendum on Britain's membership.

Unless Carswell has a cunning Trotskyist-like plan to inflame anti-EU sentiment by ensuring a Brussophilic government, his tactics seem faulty.

On the other hand, if Carswell really believes that it doesn't matter who wins elections (apart from him), perhaps his defection makes sense. Perhaps there is nothing for the antis to do but to stop the world, get off and wait for a majority Ukip government. After all, Ukip is not just about policy – whether on Europe, gay marriage or wind farms – it is a revolt against politics as usual. That sentiment is widespread, sincerely felt, and dangerous.

The problem with Ukip, as with all stop-the-world utopianism, is that it wants to sweep away the whole of existing politics and replace it with… something else. A "something else" that will turn out to mean having to make the same choices between unsatisfactory compromises that all rich, complex societies have to make. Pretending there are short-cuts is the delusion. Carswell should have stayed in the Conservative Party and fought for whatever it is that he believes.

twitter.com/@JohnRentoul

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - A great new opportunity with real pot...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor - Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - An outstanding senior opportunity for...

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: When is a baroness not a baroness? Titles still cause confusion

Guy Keleny
 

CPAC 2015: What I learnt from the US — and what the US could learn from Ukip

Nigel Farage
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower