The surprise defection today of Douglas Carswell from the Tories to UKIP is a genuine bombshell in Westminster. Carswell is also announcing that he is resigning his seat as MP for Clacton and standing for re-election in a by-election – an honourable and rare decision to seek the approval of the electorate for his decision.
He is a strong odds-on favourite with Paddy Power to win his seat for the simple reason that he is genuinely popular in Clacton, in an age of declining political activism he had a growing membership in his local party. He maintained his own database of supporters separate from the usual Conservative HQ database.
I can’t see the Tories winning this seat, thought the vote might be split. If Labour puts resources into fighting the seat – which was before Carswell a Labour-held seat, they could come up the middle on a split Tory/UKIP vote.
UKIP didn’t stand against Carswell in 2010 and he won 53% of the vote to Labour’s 25%, so even if his vote falls back it would have to more than halve for him to lose the seat.
For that reason my recommendation is put your money on Douglas Carswell becoming UKIP’s first elected MP.