Douglas Carswell's defection to Ukip makes few waves beside the seaside

Licking ice-creams in the late August sun as the waves lapped in, locals and day-trippers at Clacton-on-Sea's historic seafront were blissfully indifferent on Thursday to the political and media frenzy surrounding the defection to Ukip of the constituency's Tory MP, Douglas Carswell.

If anything, local issues rather than Ukip's preoccupation with Europe appeared to be of most concern to many.

"You can't get any bloody parking here any more," said retiree Michael White, 71, as he enjoyed a pint of Guinness, shrugging his shoulders at the news of Carswell's political bombshell.

Gently pressed however, he and others expressed sympathy for some of the hot button issues of Europe and immigration that have fuelled the rise of Ukip, which considers the economically stagnant towns on England's east coast ripe for its expansion into Westminster.

Even after the spotlight turned earlier this week on Ramsgate – where party leader Nigel Farage was formally selected as the Ukip candidate for next year's general election – Clacton's socio-demographics have caused experts to rank Carswell's constituency as number one in terms of its suitability for a breakthrough by the eurosceptic party.

"Europe? I'd vote to get out of it in the morning – it's costing us a fortune and I don't know one good thing to have come out of it," said White.

Sitting behind his flag of St George-bedecked pie and mash stall further along the seafront, owner Tim Kelly, 50, complained of an "awful summer" in terms of business and said that he was tired of receiving promotional letters from Carswell's constituency office.

"The best thing to come out of Clacton-on-Sea is the A123," said Kelly, who said anti-social behaviour in the town centre was his main concern.

But despite his apathy towards politicians of all hues, he was at one with many supporters of Ukip on the issue of immigration, and specifically the arrival of eastern Europeans in recent years.

"There are parts out there which have basically turned into shanty towns," he said, pointing in the direction of Jaywick, a council ward which earned the unhappy distinction in 2010 of being placed first in the UK's Indices of Multiple Deprivation, a government report which ranks neighbourhoods using statistics for income, employment, health, disability, crime and living standards.

Ukip has sought to draw followers from what has been described as Britain's "left behind" – the financially disadvantaged and blue collar workers, low qualified and often angry after being marginalised by the decline of traditional manufacturing from the 1970s onwards.

Matthew Goodwin, author of a book on Ukip, Revolt on the Right, said Clacton had emerged as the most favourable seat for Ukip after he and his co-author had mapped all constituencies according to a range of criteria. "The only thing that was preventing us, as academics, from pointing this seat out was Douglas Carswell's large majority which is 28%," he told the World at One on BBC Radio 4.

A short walk down the road from the local Conservative office – closed and with a notice still advising visitors to email Carswell – brothers Ian, an airport worker, and Kevin Walker, a machinist, were enjoying pints outside a pub as TV vans set up across the road.

"We're probably like most people – we're not that political and to be honest I'm not too bothered really about the immigration issue," said Kevin, who commutes to work in London but would like to be able to stay in Clacton.

"I'd love to work here and have been looking for jobs. That said, I think that Clacton is on the up. They're building houses here so it shows that there is a bit of life here yet."

Powered by article was written by Ben Quinn, for The Guardian on Thursday 28th August 2014 19.49 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010