First of all, a defection from the party banner under which one was elected is much different in a parliamentary system than it is the United States. Here, a Democrat can defect to the Republican party by merely declaring his intention and stepping across the aisle. Bang, R’s have one more seat, the D’s have one less.
In Britain a defection from one party to another means that if the defector does not immediately resign from Parliament, a “by-election” is triggered immediately in which he must stand for election as a candidate of his new party. Douglas Carswell is not resigning from Parliament and therefore must stand for election again by his Clacton constituency (Essex), this time as a UKIP candidate. The Tories will seek to replace him with a new Tory candidate, and if they succeed, they keep their place standing, with UKIP gaining nothing.
Party defections are therefor rare in the British parliamentary system. Only a man of determined courage and confidence normally does this. Douglas Carswell is such a man. He announced his defection from the Tories to the UKIP with the following statement:
The problem is that many at the top of the conservative party are not on our side. They aren’t serious about the change that Britain so desperately needs. Of course they talk the talk before elections, they say what they think they must say to get our support, but on so many issues, on modernizing our politics, on the recall of MPs, on securing our borders, on less government, on bank reform, on cutting public debt, on an EU referendum, they never actually make it happen.
They use pollsters to tell us what we ought to tell the voters. Politics to them is about politicians like them; to them politics is a game. It’s a game of spin, of position. First under Tony Blair, then Gordon Brown, now David Cameron, it’s all about the priorities of whichever tiny clique happens to be sitting on the sofa in Downing Street. Different cliques, same sofa. Few are animated by principle or by passion; those that are soon get shuffled out of the way. Many are just in it for themselves. They seek every great office, yet they believe in so very little. Only UKIP can change this, only UKIP can shake up that cozy little clique. I want change. Things can be better than this.
It is stunning how familiar this should sound to conservative voters in America fed up with the torpor and lack of leadership in the feckless political class now constituting the Republican establishment.
Writing in the Telegraph Peter Osborne says that Douglas Carswell’s defection is a seismic political event in British politics. It will be seen how true that is if Mr. Carswell’s constituency returns him to Parliament as a UKIP member. It will be largest coup UKIP leader Nigel Farage has pulled off yet. Mr. Osborne writes, “It has always been assumed that the individual vote which an incumbent MP can attract is a fraction of that commanded by the party which he represents. If Mr Carswell carries Clacton, a political convulsion will have taken place.”
Except that UKIP is an actual political party and the Tea Party in America is not, the UKIP is the British equivalent of the Tea Party in that it’s a grass roots movement against the establishment political class.