Thursday, 6 April 2017

Reckless Abandon

The news today is that Mark Reckless – once upon a time Conservative MP for near-to-me Rochester & Strood constituency, who then switched party to UKIP – has now resigned from that party too. Just like his friend of many years, Douglas Carswell MP, he is now sitting as an Independent, though he is no longer an MP but a member of the Welsh Assembly.

Somewhat like the European Parliament, Assembly Members (AMs) can sit with a particular political grouping if they wish, and if they are accepted, and it appears that Mark R. will be sitting with the Conservative Group in that structure. As far as I am aware, he has not re-joined his original party, and I don't think they would want him – at least not unless and until he has demonstrated true loyalty to them this time, I can well imagine.

This is quite possibly what this 'grouping' move is intended to demonstrate over time, in the hope that he will be invited back in a year or two. It could be that he wants to be an MP again, and sees no chance of that happening if he had stayed within UKIP. Not only was he unlikely to be selected as a candidate (because he was not much liked within that party) but recent election results – including the by-election a few weeks ago where their leader Paul Nuttall stood and failed to take the seat, carrying on the tradition of his predecessor – show that the party is unable to win seats.

With opinion poll figures for UKIP showing a downward trend for a long time now, and vote share in by-elections dropping hugely, the writing was on the wall: there is seemingly no electoral future in UKIP. This surely at least partly explains why both Douglas and Mark have now left the party, and at this specific time. The official line is that with the triggering of Article 50, their work within UKIP is now complete. It's plausible, though I am sceptical.

That event did provide a convenient excuse on the occasion of this second resignation – but it does not account for the timing of the Carswell departure, which was a little before that date, in a kind of 'no man's land' on the political calendar – and the two departures must be viewed together, just as their both joining UKIP was staggered just weeks apart, and of course because of their long friendship.

Overall, I don't see today's change making much difference to anyone outside Wales, and probably very little change there either. I shall keep a weather eye on what develops over time; but that, I think, is all it warrants.

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