2014 Clacton by-election
Banksy's "racist" pigeons
On 28 August 2014 the Conservative MP for Clacton, Douglas Carswell, announced that he was defecting to the UK Independence Party, was resigning from Parliament and that he would stand for the seat as the UKIP candidate in the resulting by-election.
On 4 September 2014, the Conservative Party announced that a US-style Open Primary (a policy previously advocated by Douglas Carswell) would be held in Clacton on Thursday 11 September 2014, when local councillor Giles Watling was chosen as the Tory candidate in the Clacton by-election on 9 October 2014.
Following a complaint made to Tendring District Council (TDC) on 30 September 2014 that a mural which suddenly appeared on a council wall in Clacton was "offensive" and "racist", the mural - depicting four pigeons holding signs including "Go Back to Africa" while a more exotic-looking bird looked on - was quickly painted over. UKIP holds just two out of sixty seats on TDC which removed the mural (estimated to have been worth around £400,000). The council said they were unaware the mural was by Banksy and conceded that the artist's political satire was lost on them. The artwork had been removed by the time Banksy himself announced it on his website. A spokeswoman for Banksy said the artist would not be commenting further on the Clacton piece.
Douglas Carswell, a Eurosceptic backbencher, said he did not think Prime Minister David Cameron was "serious about the change we need", adding that "many of those at the top of the Conservative Party are simply not on our side":
- "Of course they talk the talk before elections. They say what they feel they must say to get our support when they want our support, but on so many issues – on modernising our politics, on the recall of MPs, on controlling our borders on less government, on bank reform, on cutting public debt, on an EU referendum – they never actually make it happen."
Responding to the news that Carswell had defected and would trigger a by-election, David Cameron said the contest will be held "as soon as possible". He also confirmed that the Conservatives would contest the by-election. It was later announced that the by-election would be held on 9 October, which is Mr Cameron's 48th birthday.
On 29 August 2014, The Daily Telegraph's Peter Oborne wrote that "David Cameron should go down on his knees and beg Mayor of London Boris Johnson to stand as the Conservative Party's candidate for Clacton in the coming by-election." The bookmaker Ladbrokes offered odds of 33/1 that Johnson would stand in Clacton. Johnson had previously indicated that he would apply to stand in the Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency at the general election. Conservative backbencher Nigel Evans suggested that possibly the Conservatives should not stand in Clacton. Zac Goldsmith MP described Douglas Carswell as a "model parliamentarian" and remarked that "I hope he is an MP after 2015". Lord Tebbit said he would refuse to campaign against Carswell, claiming that the "House of Commons needs men like Douglas Carswell".
Here is how the East Anglian Daily Times broke the news on 2 September 2014:
- Mr Carswell, who took his party by surprise last week, announcing he was forcing a by-election after joining the UK Independence Party, has been out on the campaign trail since Friday.
His new leader Nigel Farage said:
- "On 9th October UKIP, Douglas and I hope to give David Cameron the one birthday present he doesn’t want, a UKIP MP elected to Westminster. Between now and then UKIP will be working hard every day to ensure Douglas is elected."
Labour also claimed it was 'off to a flying start', after revealing its candidate Tim Young on Monday:
- "We are ready. Our office is up and running, we have started door-knocking, and we were probably more prepared because we had a candidate in place unlike some of the other parties," Tim Young said.
The Conservatives are yet to announce who they will choose to fight the seat, but it emerged last night that the selection process could be an open primary. In what will be seen as a deliberate attempt to highlight the fact that Mr Carswell was parachuted in ahead of existing candidate Roger Lord, the Tories look poised to use what is seen as a more democratic method of selecting the party member who will fight for the seat.
Mayor of London Boris Johnson yesterday dismissed speculation that he would fight Mr Carswell in Essex, and asked by the BBC yesterday whether Mr Cameron had asked him to stand in Clacton, Mr Johnson said there had been 'no serious approach', adding:
- "I don’t think people think it would be the right thing for me to do, given that I’ve gone in for Uxbridge."
Simon Martin-Redman, chairman of the Clacton Conservative Association, who has been tipped as the Tories' potential candidate, would not confirm or deny reports that he would fight the seat, claiming the selection had not been made, and it was not his decision. Mr Martin-Redman said:
- "I think it is important we have local knowledge, someone who understands the disparity within the constituency and understands the needs of the people apart from Frinton and Walton. If you were coming in from outside, unless you knew, it would be difficult to pick up very quickly." Admitting the party had been 'caught out' last Thursday, when Mr Carswell made the shock announcement, Mr Martin-Redman said that the party would to things 'properly':
- "I would rather we did that and took an extra day or two so that the local electorate will have a choice. The date has been set and it is all hands to the pump and get on with it. Just because we have not had a candidate announced does not mean we have not started to fight this election," he added.
- "The poll at the weekend is ludicrous – from what we are getting on the streets it is neck and neck."
Terry Allen, who stood for Tendring First in Clacton in the 2005 General Election, confirmed no-one from the party would be fighting the by-election in 37 days time. Frinton town councillor Terry Allen said:
- "We are objecting to it anyway because it will cost £100,000 and in eight months’ time it has all got to be done again. This is a fight between Mr Carswell and the Conservatives, so let the national parties fight it out, we won’t be. If the circumstances were different we may consider it, but we don’t want to get involved in this."
In letters published in the Clacton, Frinton & Walton Gazette (firstname.lastname@example.org) voters were mostly disapproving:
Clever publicity stunt
I must admit that even though I cannot stand the man and what he stands for, the leader of UKIP has once again pulled off a clever publicity stunt. If Douglas Carswell wants to leave the Tory Party, that is his prerogative, but he should have changed parties at the next General Election, not now just to give Mr Farage his best chance of a UKIP MP and the maximum publicity that would go with it.
I did not vote for Mr Carswell in the last election. In fact, I have never voted Tory, but I will in this by-election and I would encourage all non-Tory voters to do the same to stop UKIP winning our seat.
It is said in 1914 we sleepwalked into the First World War. Let's not make the same mistake in 2014 by walking away from Europe. We should ask ourselves what, if Mr Farage and all the Eurosceptics are wrong, that will mean for the futures of all our children and grandchildren.
A J Strickland, Bushell Way, Frinton
Clacton will vote Labour
Douglas Carswell's attempt to secure another term in office as Clacton's MP by defecting to UKIP will be seen by many as an opportunistic move because he sees his seat slipping away from him. For a man who claims to be against the "top down" approach of the political elite in Westminster and to fight for local democracy, his actions do not seem to match his words. We need no lectures about transparency from someone who, in conjuction with Nigel Farage, selects himself as the UKIP candidate.
- "It is pretty arrogant of Douglas Carswell to think that the voters and the electorate are like sheep and will go along with this."
If Mr Carswell does believe in democracy, then why doesn't he take part in a selection process and let the members of the party he is now representing decide who their candidate is? It is very clear that Mr Carswell thinks the people of Clacton have no principles and will just vote for him, regardless what party he represents. Mr Carswell is no different from the political elite he criticises.
When the people of Clacton find out what UKIP's policies are in relation to privatising the NHS and tax breaks for the well-off, I believe the people of Clacton will vote for Labour candidate Tim Young.
Keith Henderson, Kirby Cross
Ego and opportunism
As a former resident of Clacton (not a Tory or UKIP supporter), I am surprised at how gullible people are in accepting Douglas Carswell's pious statements about his reasons for converting to UKIP. This isn't altruism. It's opportunism as plain as the nose on my face. If his motives are honourable, why didn't he even tell his party leader what he intended to do or the already selected local candidate?
And where are UKIP's much vaunted democratic principles when they ride roughshod over their already chosen candidate, Roger Lord. Opportunism again! Mr Carswell makes much of the fact that he is seeking a mandate rather than just switching sides in the House, but the General Election is only six months away and no special event or reason has triggered his decision to switch horses which would not have waited until then then.
Mr Carswell doesn't mind wasting £150,000 of taxpayers' money in this late by-election because he knows he stands far more chance of winning than in a General Election, thus acquiring for himself the kudos of being "UKIP's first MP". This move is about two things: ego and opportunism. Anyone who can't see that really should have gone to Specsavers.
Richard Barnes (Address supplied)
Having now had a week or so to ruminate over Douglas Carswell's resignation and turn to UKIP, I think it is worth considering his tactics and those the other parties may consider in the by-election and run-up to next May's General Election.
Clearly, the decision made by David Cameron in the fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 to terminate the historical media hysteria that always occurred in the final months of each Parliamentary term by declaring that the "next" General Election would take place in May 2015, has allowed Mr Carswell to time his defection to perfection. He knew a by-election would be necessary and that his competitors would be taken by surprise and find it difficult to find suitable candidates and prepare their campaigns quickly.
Although there seems to be little in the way of official guidance for how long before a General Election a by-election can be held, the Speaker's Conference on electoral law in 1973 determined that, although a Parliamentary motion for a writ for a by-election should normally be moved within three months of a vacancy arising, in the fifth year of a Parliament some relaxation of these guidelines should be allowed in order to avoid by-elections being held immediately before a General Election.
Seven months before, therefore, seems a very convenient period as it is too long for any reasonable Parliamentary delay. However, had no date been set in 2011 it would, at this late stage, have been impossible for such brinkmanship to have succeeded.
J Russell, Weeley
In December 2013, Colchester Borough Councillor Tim Young was selected as Labour's candidate for the Clacton seat at the 2015 General Election and was, in August 2014, confirmed as their candidate at the by-election on 9 October 2014.
The Liberal Democrats have also chosen their candidate to contest the seat.
At an Open Primary on Thursday 11 September 2014, the Conservatives chose the actor Giles Watling (who portrayed Oswald the vicar in Carla Lane's TV soap Bread in the 1980s) to represent them in the by-election.
Nominations closed at 16:00 hours on Tuesday 16 September 2014. Eight candidates were confirmed as candidates in the Clacton by-election:
- Douglas Carswell, (UKIP);
- Andy Graham, (Lib Dem);
- Howling Laud Hope, (The Official Monster Raving Loony Party);
- Charlotte Rose, (Ind);
- Bruce Sizer, (Ind);
- Chris Southall, (Green);
- Giles Watling, (Con); and,
- Tim Young, (Lab).
The election produced a number of statistical records, partly because of the unusual situation where an existing MP with a large majority for one party has resigned and then stood for re-election on behalf of a new party for which support was in any case on a strongly rising trend. The 59.7% increase in the percentage vote achieved by UKIP since the previous general election (when they did not field a candidate) is the greatest ever in British parliamentary elections, although the percentage swing remains 0.1% less than the record 44.2% swing to the Liberal Democrats at the Bermondsey by-election in 1983. The 28.4% reduction in Conservative votes is the 16th worst for any party since the Second World War, while the 1.3% of the vote achieved by the Liberal Democrats is the third smallest vote ever obtained by a major party, and the worst since WW2.
- Turnout:>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>35,386 (51.2%)
- Candidate>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>Votes Cast
- Douglas Carswell, (UKIP):>>>>>>>>>>>>21,113 (Elected)
- Andy Graham, (Lib Dem):>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>483
- Howling Laud Hope, (OMRLP):>>>>>>>>>>>127
- Charlotte Rose, (Ind):>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>56
- Bruce Sizer, (Ind):>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>205
- Chris Southall, (Green):>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>688
- Giles Watling, (Con):>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>8,709
- Tim Young, (Lab):>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>3,957
- "Chancellor makes Douglas Carswell's resignation official", ITV
- "Douglas Carswell's shock defection to UKIP triggers by-election battle"
- Nicholas Watt, "Tory MP Douglas Carswell defects to UKIP and forces by-election", The Guardian (28 August 2014)
- "Tories to use open primary to choose Clacton candidate"
- "Sitcom Actor To Fight Clacton By-Election"
- "Banksy anti-immigration birds mural in Clacton-on-Sea destroyed"
- "Tendring District Councillors"
- "Banksy website"
- "Bungling council erases £400,000 'racist' Banksy"
- "The Battle for Clacton"
- BBC News, "Tory MP Douglas Carswell switches to UKIP" (28 August 2014)
- "Local issues affected my decision"
- "Tory MP Douglas Carswell defects to UKIP and forces by-election"
- "Why David Cameron must beg Boris Johnson to fight in Clacton"
- "Uxbridge might lose Boris Johnson to Clacton"
- "Boris Johnson plans to stand as MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip in general election" The Independent
- "Tories might not stand"
- "Nothing but admiration for Douglas Carswell"
- "I would not campaign against him"
- "Clacton: Carswell hopes to ruin Prime Minister’s birthday as date set for by-election"
- "Clacton's £100,000 by-election"
- "Tim Young selected as Labour candidate for Clacton" Gazette News
- "Tim Young on Twitter"
- "Clacton by-election to be held on 9 October" BBC News
- "Two candidates shortlisted for the Clacton by-election"
- "Statement of Persons Nominated"
- "Eight candidates will fight the Clacton by-election"
- "Clacton by-election: Statistics of Douglas Carswell's win". News online: politics. BBC. 10 Oct 2014. Retrieved 10 Oct 2014.
- "Votes cast in Clacton by-election"