Douglas Carswell today resigned from the Conservative party and announced his intention to stand for UKIP in the resulting by-election. I could not help but think, as I listened to his speech on the BBC, that this would be a resignation that he would regret. His advocacy of “Classically Liberal” values, on everything from electoral reform to the size of government expenditure, is fast becoming out of step with the majority of UKIP voters.
For although UKIP still describes itself, and is seen by commentators, as a right wing Classical Liberal party, its centre of gravity is far removed. Research by Matthew Goodwin in his book “Revolt on the right” overwhelmingly depicts the UKIP voter as white and working class. How ironic it is then, that the radical libertarian sentiments advocated by UKIP’s leadership, is far removed from the values of the majority of its voters; voters who rely heavily upon public services and in-work benefits.
The result, in the fullness of time, is that the emergence of “Red UKIP’, which was first witnessed in the Labour facing by-elections of 2013, will fast engulf this new party. For demographically it is here, in the labour facing seats of the North, that UKIP’s highest chance of success resides. As UKIP attempts to win votes, it is inevitable that the party will continue to shift its policy on tax and spend to the left. We have seen this already. Right-wing policies such as a flat rate of tax have been subtly dropped, and announcements on protecting public services, particularly the NHS, stepped up. This is far removed from the Classical Liberal party whose members where once comfortable with the privatisation of the NHS, and a withering reduction in government spending.
This shift was made stark recently when the left wing commentator Owen Jones wrote an open love letter to UKIP voters, praising their new economic stance and supporting their drive towards economic collectivism. Therefore, I cannot help but think that Douglas will regret his decision. As a man with a liberal outlook on immigration, constitutional reform and the role of the state, he may well find himself in a party, which is anything but liberal. A party, which is on the one hand economically collectivist, whilst on the other socially conservative: Old Labour. The worst of all possible worlds.