Nigel Farage popped up on the Daily Politics today to warn Douglas Carswell that critical comments about his leadership cannot continue. The Ukip leader said the Clacton MP's views don't have any particular significance, despite the fact he is the only Kipper who was elected in May's general election:
‘Well he did but so what? He’s one person. So what? We cannot have one individual every single time there’s a Ukip conference and it finishes with a story of disunity and it’s all being caused by one person. And frankly, I think it’s going to have to end.’
Farage was quite shifty on what the ‘end’ might be, although he did point out 'it will not be me who makes these decisions, it will be Douglas' — so it doesn't look as if he will push to deselect Carswell or remove the party whip. He also said the rest of the party remains ‘very united’ around his leadership and no one else is trying to challenge it:
‘I have never seen a party that is more solidly united around policy, direction and leadership than it is today and what we’ve had, ever since that general election, is one individual, mostly in private but today in public criticising the leadership.
‘I have the unanimous support of the Ukip national executive, the unanimous support of Ukip’s MEPs and amazingly, 91.4 per cent of Ukip voters in a recent opinion poll support my leadership — but my position has never been more secure.’
Farage may be right to say that a big chunk of Ukip voters support him, but Carswell is not alone by any means in believing that the party needs a change in direction. But this situation is an odd one: a party, with a leader who is not in the Commons, putting himself in direct conflict with an MP who is arguably just as important to the party's future. As Ukip is such a small and shambolic operation, it does not have the structures to deal with this conflict. So for now, Carswell and Farage appear to be settling their differences by publicly attacking each other.