Ukip's party conference is underway in Doncaster. The party is hoping for an event that runs more smoothly than last year, where Nigel Farage sacked Godfrey Bloom for hitting a journalist and calling women 'sluts'. It certainly has more in its favour this time around, with Tory defector Douglas Carswell to address the conference ahead of what looks like a victory in the Clacton by-election. But there are also rumours that two more Conservative MPs are about to defect.
Adam Holloway's name was winging round the lobby today, but he says he won't be going anywhere because he is terrified of the prospect of a Labour government. He said:
'I'd much rather be in coalition with Ukip than the Lib Dems but I'm not going to defect.'
None of the other MPs Coffee House spoke to this afternoon said they were going to defect, but then they would say that, wouldn't they? Douglas Carswell's departure came out of the blue. Someone may be fobbing nosey journalists off, it may be a figure no-one has thought of, or else Ukip may not have any defectors. They have, though, been telling other MPs they want to entice over that they do have 'surprising' names who will defect, but it's difficult to tell how much of this is a bluff. The problem for Ukip is if this isn't true and they don't have MPs to unveil tomorrow, then they will have distracted from what remains a huge achievement in enticing Douglas Carswell over to their party. Their initial comms success in announcing Carswell's move as a complete surprise would be undermined by comms naivety.
Another example of naivety is the way the party has publicly complained about the recall of Parliament to vote on air strikes against Isis in Iraq. Suzanne Evans said it was a 'cynical ploy', while another source used slightly less delicate language. It is of course very inconvenient that the vote be held on the same day after weeks of delay on this matter. But the way Ukip has responded shows that it is not yet a grown-up party: this is the sort of point you let others make for you, while remaining gracefully silent.