CLACTON-ON-SEA, United Kingdom — “This idea that they’re all the same… It’s true. They’ve all got the same, multicultural, metropolitan ideas for England,” my cab driver in Clacton told me this morning. “I hope this is like another peasants revolt, that started in Essex too,” he said before he told me he was voting UKIP. Still, I could have guessed it. In a Clacton that’s abuzz with anti-establishment sentiment, you would be forgiven for thinking that Nigel Farage, not Douglas Carswell, was the candidate.
I stopped in Clacton’s town centre, where I immediately bumped into Mr Carswell, who advised me that he had finally managed to shake off a gaggle of journalists to get a haircut. Meanwhile, the town heaved with purple rosettes, UKIP branded cars, dogs, and even a horse. A one horse town, if you believe Matthew Parris, but more like a one horse race here.
There were some Conservative and Labour activists mooching around, seemingly lost, and preparing to have lost. I bumped into a old friend of mine from Tory HQ last night, and asked him why they were still even bothering. Answer came there none.
They’re not deluded, mind you. It just seems as if they’re still operating with a “main three parties” mentality — unsure of what to do with themselves now that UKIP is finally set to deliver its first directly elected Member of Parliament. For all the aggressive sentiment from David Cameron, Tory Chairman Grant Shapps and his mindless underlings, there hasn’t been an inch of movement in Clacton, and it now looks like UKIP will hold Rochester and Strood too, where Mark Reckless recently defected.
What it means is that UKIP will go into the General Election next year with two elected Members of Parliament. Mr Farage made a lot of journalists look very silly when, pre-defections, he announced that he would resign as UKIP leader if the party had no MPs in May. They all went wild of course, hoping if not expecting a nil points result for the eurosceptic party. But it was not to be, and Mr Farage looks as if he will go into May with at least one seat in the House of Commons.
Still, the thought of a Miliband government after the general election is almost too much for many to bear. For this reason, my cab driver told me despite Mr Carswell’s excellent record and popularity in Clacton, he’ll go back to voting Conservative at the general election.
“I couldn’t live with myself if I thought I was responsible for another five years of Labour,” he said. And that sort of thinking is enough to put a pin in UKIP’s should-be celebratory atmosphere tonight.
No, ironically, there’s no time for any of that. For Nigel it’s straight on to Rochester and Strood, and then perhaps on to the next by election — whether that is the South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner vote, or something else the man has up his sleeve, remains to be seen.