Dozens of former Conservative voters in Clacton have told local campaigners that they will be voting for UKIP’s Douglas Carswell specifically following an article in The Times newspaper by former Conservative MP Matthew Parris.
The article, published last week, was entitled “Tories should turn their backs on Clacton” and was widely condemned by Tory activists and commentators. It derided the seaside town of Clacton, claiming it was “going nowhere”, and implied that Tories should focus on more metropolitan, liberal voters.
But despite being roundly rejected by most on the Tory right, Parris’s article has had so much airtime that locals in Clacton are citing it as a reason for abandoning the Conservatives in favour of Nigel Farage’s Party.
Breitbart London asked Conservative Campaign Headquarters if Parris represented them on any level, especially given that he kept referring to the party as “we” on the BBC’s Newsnight last week. He said during the interview: “The moment we start flirting with the right then as a party I think we’ve lost it”.
But a Conservative Party spokesperson told Breitbart London: “Matthew Parris is an independent journalist” and said that he did not represent the views of the party.
UKIP sources pointed to the fact that Parris hosted the recent Conservative Party selection meeting in North West Hampshire just two months ago, as well as chairing the Totnes hustings in 2009, where the Conservatives held an open primary to select a candidate.
But Tory HQ selects journalists routinely, they say. Former Tory candidate turned broadcaster Iain Dale has hosted the events in the past, as well as former Tory MP turned talking head Michael Portillo.
But this wafer thin separation may not be enough to convince Clacton voters that Parris is far enough outside of the Party and that he doesn’t reflect its views. The fact that these views are so very hostile towards the average voter should be of great concern to Tory election strategists. Not just in Clacton, but around the country in 2015 too.
If Parris really isn’t a Tory spokesperson, then perhaps he is “passing off” as one – a legal point of concern that we know the party has used against its own supporters before. Last month Breitbart London reported that the party sent a legal letter to Bow Group Chairman Ben Harris-Quinney, accusing him of trying to represent the party when he does not.
If they don’t treat Parris in the same way, accusations will soon fly regarding the difference in how the Tories treat their left and right supporter bases respectively – chasing more right wingers off, and further moving the party towards electoral oblivion.