Clacton by-election: 12 facts about Ukip's new MP Douglas Carswell

Oliver Wright on some things that those who voted for him may not have known

Oliver Wright
Friday 10 October 2014 17:24 BST
Former Tory MP Douglas Carswell
Former Tory MP Douglas Carswell (Getty Images)

Douglas Carswell caused a political earthquake after he defected from the Conservatives and joined Ukip. And today he won a by-election in his old seat of Clacton to became Ukip's first elected MP. But what do we really know about Mr Carswell and his views? Here are some interesting facts about the new Ukip MP that some of those who voted for him may not have known:

1. Mr Carswell’s voting record shows continued opposition to gay marriage and laws against discrimination based on sexual orientation.

He has voted against the Government stance supporting gay rights reforms five times, including several readings of the Same Sex Marriage Bill and laws making it available to armed forces personnel working overseas.

In 2007, he also voted against changes to the Equality Act, which put LGBT discrimination on the same legal footing as offences based on race, gender or disability for the first time.

Writing a letter in 2012 against gay marriage, Mr Carswell insisted he believed in “equal treatment for gay people” but opposed his own party’s proposals. “I think there is something a little bit arrogant about ministers supposing that it is for them to redefine communal rules that have existed for centuries,” he added.

2. He wants to scrap all MPs' expenses except those relating to running an office and travel from their constituency. But The Daily Telegraph revealed in 2009 that he claimed allowances to pay for furniture in his constituency home, including a £655 “Maximus” love seat in deep moss brushed cotton, with extra fabric protection from

3. Carswell would like to repeal the Firearms Act brought in to restrict gun ownership after the Dunblane tragedy. He claims in his book 'The Plan' that it has done nothing to reduce gun crime while criminalising pistol shooting. He would also like to repeal the War Crimes Act, the Dangerous Dogs Act and legislation that requires football stadiums not to have standing terraces.

4. Mr Carswell signed off a letter condemning Ukip as a “one policy party” less than a month before he defected. Giles Watling, the former Bread actor who ended up standing for the Tories in Clacton sent Mr Carswell a draft of a letter for approval which he was sending to the local paper. The letter said that Ukip's attacks on the Tories were “madness” and that people should not be “fooled into voting Ukip”. Mr Carswell replied in an email that the letter “read very well” and that he would be “delighted” if Mr Watling sent it to the local newspaper. Less than a month later Mr Carswell defected to Ukip. He later denied attacking Ukip and said: “I was decidedly cool towards the sentiment of the letter… my response was that of someone who clearly had doubts”.

5. Mr Carswell was not actually entitled to vote for himself in Thursday's election. His main home is in Fulham, London and his constituency base is 200 yards outside the boundaries of his Parliamentary seat.

6. The new MP has written that he would like to remove legal protections that prevent employees from being fired by companies without following legal disciplinary procedures. He would also scrap rules giving part time workers the same rights to equal pensions and holiday as full time employees.

7. When Mr Carswell was asked about accusations of sexism in Ukip, including a former MEP’s description of women as “sluts” and assertions that “no self-respecting small businessman…would ever employ a lady of child-bearing age”, he called the views “intolerable”. “That’s totally intolerable and not only is it totally intolerable we should say it’s totally intolerable,” he told the Telegraph following his defection to Ukip.

He has also spoken in support for increased maternity and paternity leave, vowing to take on “out of date” attitudes in Ukip.

8. Carswell's first memories were of Uganda under the rule of the brutal dictator Idi Amin. His father was one of a small number of practising surgeons in the country and the first to diagnose a case of Aids in Anglophone Africa. “If you grow up in a country where arbitrary rule leads to the total ruin of society, the suppression of free markets leads to the collapse of living standards, of course you're going to grow up a libertarian,” he has said.

9. Mr Carswell has said on a number of occasions that he believes all party candidates should be selected through open primaries. But Mr Carswell himself ousted Roger Lord, the Ukip candidate in his seat who had already been chosen to fight him at the next election. There was no open primary.

10. He may now be signed up to Ukip but is slightly less opposed to immigration that some of his constituents might expect as he made clear in his speech joining the party. “On the subject of immigration, let me make it absolutely clear; I'm not against immigration,” he said. “We should welcome those that want to come here to contribute. We need those with skills and drive. There's hardly a hospital, GP surgery or supermarket in the country that could run without that skill and drive.”

11. He thinks the police should be placed under the control of locally elected Sheriffs - who would be able set local sentencing guidelines for criminals.

12. Mr Carswell also appears not to mind about changing his mind. In April he wrote: “In order to exit the EU, we need David Cameron to be prime minister in 2017 - the year when we get the in/out referendum, our chance to leave the EU.” He clearly no longer believes that.

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