Political irony of Ukip defection

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DOUGLAS Carswell’s defection from the Tories to the United Kingdom Independence Party is even more awkward to David Cameron because of the unexpected manner in which the backbencher put his “principles on the table”.

Unlike those MPs such as Sir Reg Prentice in the 1970s and Shaun Woodward in the late 1990s who crossed the floor of the House of Commons and then sought the sanctuary of a safe Parliamentary seat at the next election, Mr Carswell has chosen to call an immediate by-election in his Clacton constituency in Essex which he held at the 2010 election with a majority of 12,000 votes.

It is questionable whether this Eurosceptic would have been so emboldened if his seat was more marginal, but at least Mr Carswell acknowledged that the “people of Clacton” are his employers and that they should be allowed to give their verdict on his defection.

There is every likelihood that they will endorse Mr Carswell because of his honesty and his willingness to put principles before party – this newspaper has been the first to call for more independent-minded politicians at Westminster – and that Clacton is one of the coastal resorts where Eurosceptic voices are at their most vociferous.

Voters will also look at the political vacuum in France and question why Britain wants to remain in the European Union when growth is virtually non-existent in the Eurozone.

Where they will differ with Mr Carswell is his assertion that Ukip is the only organisation that can deliver European reform. It is not. Even Nigel Farage’s own calculations point to his party winning just a handful of seats in 2015.

Like it or not, the next election will be won by the Tories or Labour, and Mr Carswell’s defection plays into the hands of Ed Miliband who has already stated that he does not intend to sanction a referendum on Britain’s future membership of the EU. How ironic.

Who knew what?

Questions for Labour and police

AS RESIDENTS continue to wait for crime commissioner Shaun Wright and his former Rotherham Council colleagues to resign following the sex grooming scandal in the town, the respective roles of South Yorkshire Police and the Labour Party must not escape scrutiny.

First the police. They, too, were complicit in not investigating the sexual abuse of children being committed by grooming gangs of Pakistani origin – distressed victims have spoken about how

evidence vanished and how they weren’t taken seriously. How does the discredited constabulary intend to remedy matters?

Such reassurances are even more urgent after the police watchdog criticised the force for showing a “disregard to victims” of rape and serious sexual assault, verdicts that will not help with the rebuilding of trust.

Next, Labour. While Ed Miliband – a South Yorkshire MP – interrupted his holiday to comment on the death of Lord Attenborough and then Tory backbencher Douglas Carswell’s defection to Ukip, he has been less forthcoming on the fate of his local crime commissioner. There are questions to answer. Head of the children’s services committee in Rotherham from 2005 until 2010, Mr Wright was selected by Labour to become the town’s mayor in 2011 before becoming the party’s successful crime commissioner candidate.

Just how did Mr Wright acquire these roles when there must have been Labour activists who knew that the response to the Rotherham scandal had been totally ineffective? Or were they all in it together?

Court caught out

Flintoff escapes a driving ban

THE FACT that cricket legend Andrew Flintoff successfully pleaded “exceptional hardship” in order to escape a driving ban provides added credence to those who believe that the scales of justice are tipped in favour of celebrities.

While his charity work has been extensive after his heroics on the cricket field helped England to regain the Ashes in 2005 and end 18 long years of Australian dominance, his legendary status should not merit such lenient treatment from star-struck magistrates who have a duty to apply the law fairly to all.

Flintoff’s latest speeding conviction was his fourth in three years – there is a clear pattern of behaviour here – and any other motorist would have expected to lose their licence in similar circumstances. If a driving suspension is going to be such an inconvenience, can’t the all-rounder employ a chauffeur? As such, a fine and court costs of £445 in total suggests that it is the courts, and not “Freddie” Flintoff, who have been caught out in this instance.