Anthony Barnett on Carswell and UKIP

Anthony Barnett, founder of Open Democracy

On 15th September 2014, just 3 days before Scotland’s independence referendum, we broadcast a Tom Nairn book launch live from Edinburgh. It was a venue packed tight with intellectuals of the left, who shared a solid, but in hindsight misplaced, confidence that we were on the brink of a YES victory. Anthony Barnett, founder of Open Democracy, put forward his analysis of how things looked likely to go with the defection of Carswell and the probable electoral success of UKIP. Here is a transcript of what he said:

And the most important thing about UKIP now – it’s an odd thing that it was taking place in parallel with this movement here – is that when Carswell resigned from the Tory party, he said what happened was he went along to a private meeting and he talked to Cameron’s advisers and the mandarins and he discovered that Cameron didn’t mean a word he said.

That they absolutely regarded the referendum on Europe as a device, as a trick, that they were going to fix it. And he just said you know, he’s an odd figure because the Tories call him a “maverick” and that is to say (A) he means what he says and (B) he is a democrat and he’s a modern democrat.

He said in the speech when he resigned that he was a feminist, he talked about his daughter, he talked about the importance of political correctness, he talked about the importance of (people with) disabilities and his book “The Plan” is about how you implement internet democracy.

So he is actally quite a peculiar – we talked about atavism – he is a peculiar English anti-European free-market nationalist. But he’s also in internet terms a democratic modern figure. And that break will give UKIP real place. It ceases to be just Farage’s instrument.

He will win this by-election. And if they win this by-election, they will have an MP. That MP will not be Farage. And if the UKIP vote holds up, the Tories lose the election. So the entire Tory strategy was to scoop up the UKIP vote on the grounds that we are offering you the referendum and Miliband isn’t. 80% of UKIP votes Tory and they can beat Labour.

So this defection..behind this defection is the view of Carswell and obviously Farage that they want the Tories to lose. That they think that a Labour victory is the only way to gain a Tory party that will hold an authentic referendum to take England (as it will be) out of the EU. And that is the end of contemporary Conservatism as we know it.

So it’s a kind of revolution … I say this through gritted teeth and eyes yellow with jealousy … is taking place in England, not of the kind that I would like, but that is already happening on the ground.

And a Scottish YES feeding into that is absolutely explosive.

Watch the video here. Anthony Barnett’s comments transcribed above occur near the end at 1h15m25s.

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