UK Independence Party MP Douglas Carswell has held secret talks with members of the Conservative Party on the possibility of re-joining ahead of the 2020 general election, it has emerged.
The talks come as UKIP’s former leader, Nigel Farage MEP, called on the party’s sole MP to quit UKIP following a row over claims that Mr. Carswell blocked attempts to secure Mr. Farage a peerage.
Conservative MPs are said to be agreeable to the idea. Andrew Bridgen MP told the Evening Standard that he had actively urged Mr. Carswell to cross the floor a second time, adding: “It is time for him to admit he made a mistake and come home to the Conservative Party.”
Mr. Carswell left the Conservatives in August 2014, calling Westminster a “cosy little clique”, and forced a by-election.
But his time with UKIP has been characterised by his repeated infighting with the party over policy and messaging, particularly on the subject of immigration, and by quickly falling out with Mr. Farage whom he blocked from taking an active part in the official Leave campaign during last summer’s Brexit referendum.
A book published last October revealed Mr. Carswell had plotted to infiltrate UKIP to “neutralise” Mr. Farage, and had accused the party of being “angry” and “nativist”.
On Monday, a fresh row broke out when emails were leaked which appeared to show Mr. Carswell had blocked attempts to gain Mr. Farage a peerage in recognition of his role in bringing about the Brexit referendum – an allegation he denies.
Writing for The Telegraph on Tuesday, Mr. Farage called for Mr. Carswell’s expulsion from the party for the sake of party unity.
“Since the General Election he [Carswell] has brought nothing to the party at all other than constant division, at times I believe deliberately stirred up to cause maximum damage to the party,” Mr. Farage wrote.
“As a party, how can we let a man represent us in the House of Commons who actively and transparently seeks to damage us? I think there is little future for UKIP with him staying inside this party. The time for him to go is now.”
Mr. Carswell has indicated he would consider it a matter of honour to hold a second by-election should he decide to return to the Conservative fold, a prospect that major UKIP donor Arron Banks has welcomed by promising to run against him.
Good , we will have a high street shop in Clacton , professional agent appointed soon and I will be rolling my sleeves up. https://t.co/FCmm5RE3Pu
— Arron Banks (@Arron_banks) February 28, 2017
But Mr. Carswell has demurred, insisting: “I am 100 per cent UKIP and will be staying with UKIP.
“Local people in Clacton, I think, are a little ‘electioned out’. We’ve had a referendum, a general election, a by-election.
“I’m staying put.”
The Conservatives, meanwhile, seem content to see him delay his return. A senior government source confirmed to The Telegraph they had discussed the possibility with Mr. Carswell months ago but said: “We talked about him coming back to rejoin the Conservatives at the next general election.
“Douglas has been voting with the Tories anyway and will continue to do so. He’s the only UKIP MP in the House, but he’s basically counted as another Tory already.”