I have a lot of affection and regard for the Slugger O’Toole site, and its Onlie True Begetter, Mick Fealty. Quite frankly, if you want All Northern Irish Life, that’s as good as any.
With all due respect, then, I was somewhat taken aback that the Man Himself took time out to argue the significance of Douglas Carswell’s defection from the Tories to UKIP. Let’s be honest: the only real surprise was the “who”. We knew the wind off the German Ocean was blowing chill for the Tories: witness, for just two obvious examples, the standing-down of Mark Simmonds at Boston and Skegness and Laura Sandys in South Thanet.
Mick Fealty’s argument was:
Carswell defection will bolster UKIP’s bid to become a ‘serious’ Westminster player.
Did the election, in a full General Election, — not defection — of Caroline Lucas in Brighton, Pavilion, against four Party opposition, and against “Leo Atrides” (I still can’t take that one seriously) make the Green Party a ‘serious’ Westminster player?
Even in the specific Northern Irish context, did Naomi Long in East Belfast or Sylvia Hermon in North Down made either of them‘serious’ Westminster players?
This is the politics of froth.
Even were the Kippers to take (at the top end of every prediction) three seats — not half of one percent of Commons membership — at next May’s General Election, what rights of audience, let alone power, does that give them?
No: the issue is first and foremost that the Tory Party is suffering the political equivalent of a tectonic split. This time the widening divide is over the EU.
Such an event hasn’t been hasn’t been seen among Tories since 27th January 1846. That was when Peel announced he intended the repeal of the Corn Laws. The consequence was the amalgamation of the Peelite Tories and the Whigs to form the “Liberal Party”. It also kept that lot out of government for a decade — and even then, under Disraeli (who could turn his coat as soon as anyone), the traditional Tory presumption of land-owner interest was never restored.
And that, Mr Fealty, is far more important than any War of Carswell’s dubious “Loyalty”.