Is Douglas Carswell happily at home in Ukip? The Clacton MP’s latest policy intervention, this time on immigration, adds to the sense that his beliefs differ somewhat from his party and its leader. His op-ed in the Times today for example stated that Enoch Powell was wrong about the dangers of immigration:
‘Immigration has not been without its challenges. Yet it has been, overwhelmingly, a story of success. Britain today is more at ease with the multi-ethnic society that we have become than once seemed imaginable — and not just to Enoch Powell. Like many before and since, Powell underestimated the ability of a free society to adapt.’
Nigel Farage on the other hand has backed the ‘basic principle’ of what Powell said in his 1968 ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech So what’s going on here: real policy tensions or licensed differences? At a British Future event in Westminster this evening on immigration, Carswell had to continually defend his ideas as representative of more people in Ukip than just himself.
He discussed the commitments that Ukip would make on immigration in their manifesto, saying they will be ‘fair and ethical’ and represents the whole party. Ukip's main policy looks as if it will focus around a quota system for those seeking a ‘right to settle’ in Britain, with certain exceptions for students and the like. For those wishing to settle, Ukip will advocate an Australian-style points system. Achieving this requires leaving the EU, according to Carswell, and he believes this is a realistic goal:
‘It can be done, but it will not be done if the argument is reduced to arguing about people from Romania’
This again appeared to be a pop at Farage’s remarks on LBC last year. Many audience members at the event nodded along with Carswell, a self-described ‘optimist’ who said we have 'never lived in a better time', and argued that ‘multiculti groupthink’ can now be to challenged. But Carswell became visibly frustrated at having to say that others hold similar views:
‘I don’t think I’m swimming against the tide at all. I look at the candidates Ukip have selected in key seats and they are reflective of the country in many ways’
On the topic Meet the Ukippers documentary, he deflected the attacks by saying similar views could be found in the Tory party — if only the TV crews put in the same amount of effort:
‘I probably would have filmed, I know I would have filmed, some views and some comments and some perspectives that most right thinking people would find obnoxious and intolerable. I can think of Conservative councilors who would have occasionally said things that I found deeply offensive. And those views need to be tackled and challenged wherever they are found. ‘
But I don’t think anyone would imply that just because some people in the Conservative party have those views that it’s somehow a reflection on the leadership.’
We’ll find out when Ukip’s manifesto lands how consistent its policies on immigration are. It’s very unlikely Carswell would have given this speech and written the Times op-ed without the consent of Ukip’s leadership. So either there is an agreement to disagree or Ukip is becoming a much broader church.
Either way, holding together these different viewpoints together will require plenty of effort between now and polling day. The two skilled men involved, Nigel Farage and Douglas Carswell, both appear to be trying their hardest to make it work.