Are Tory defectors good for UKIP?

Within the space of a month, two Tory MPs have defected to UKIP, triggering two by-elections and causing the Tories a headache. But is it such a good idea for UKIP to welcome them with open arms?

One of UKIP’s oft-repeated criticisms of the three main political parties is that they don’t have the interests of the people at heart, they aren’t doing enough and they aren’t listening to the people, specifically the working class. But, by accepting the defection of other party members and automatically enrolling them as the new candidates for their constituencies, UKIP has put two former Tories at the front of their national campaign.

The problem with drawing some of your candidates from other parties is that they were in the parties you railed against.

And it’s not as if Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless did a two month internship with the Conservatives before deciding “this isn’t for me”. Carswell has been a member of the Tory party for thirteen years, standing as their MP three times. Reckless has been working for the Tories as far back as 2002 when he was working as a policy unit member at the CCO.

Doesn’t it even slightly betray the working class ideals of the party to put two well-established politicians at the forefront of the national UKIP campaign, especially since they have time and time again voted against the working class? UKIP has spent so long deriding these people as establishment figures who don’t care about the common man, and the second they switch to the other side, they’re given a front seat in the 2015 general election. Hardly seems fair, given that there are presumably scores of everyday UKIP members who would give their right arm to stand as a parliamentary candidate.

Now it’s easy to suggest that UKIP cares more about getting the job done than they do about where their candidates come from. That may well be true, and it may be that UKIP voters share that sentiment. Isn’t it just a little strange to suddenly shed all animosity and previous criticism once the Tory MPs don the purple and yellow ribbon? Are all past crimes, like voting for the bedroom tax and voting against a guaranteed jobs programme for long-term unemployed people, so easily forgiven?

Did anybody in UKIP ever stop and ask themselves: Could these people be defecting just to jump on the UKIP bandwagon? Since it was founded in 1993, UKIP’s first general election saw their vote count at 105,722. Their next general election saw that number sextuple to 605,973. The one after that saw them reach just shy of a million votes. UKIP’s vote is growing exponentially, and with all the talk of a “political earthquake” coupled with a victory in the 2014 EU elections, now is a very good time to join UKIP.

I don’t mean to suggest that Carswell and Reckless don’t truly believe in Euroscepticism and the like, or that they won’t uphold the brand of libertarianism UKIP is built upon, but this smacks of political opportunism on their part, given the disastrous reign of the Coalition government. UKIP is there for the joining, and Farage’s insistence that these defectors have “honour” seems a little dubious when you look at the figures. It seems more like abandoning a sinking ship for a recently refurbished frigate.

This may or may not have occurred to UKIP voters. The point is that voters who go for right-wing minor political parties are not particularly loyal and are always willing to look for the next party to join, if needs be. National Front members knew they were getting nowhere so they moved to the BNP. BNP members knew they were getting nowhere so they either moved to the English Democrats or UKIP. As Tory supporters bleed away into the minor parties, UKIP would do well to remember that not all of its voters will be content to see former enemy Tory faces waving the UKIP banner. These people seem to believe in their views more than they ever believe in any particular party.

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