Yesterday Tory MP Douglas Carswell announced at a special press conference that he is defecting to Ukip.
The Tory whips move into action mode by saying that the Conservative party will contest the by-election vigorously, to ensure that the people of Clacton have a strong Conservative voice in this Parliament and the next.
As well as saying his decision is regrettable and counterproductive, the other Tory response to this morning’s shock defection by Douglas Carswell is to point people to instances where Carswell has said that only David Cameron as Prime Minister in 2017 will guarantee a referendum. It is clear that Douglas Carswell no longer believes this to be the case, so much co that he is prepared to leave the party he has been fighting for to join another.
Douglas Carswell’s defection today to Ukip is terrible for David Cameron. But it is also deeply inconvenient for his band of eurosceptic brothers. He was a key member of a powerful ‘cell’ of MPs who met regularly to discuss strategies for pushing the Conservative leadership further on European policy.
But what happens to that eurosceptic cause now? They had been discussing how to get more detail out of the Prime Minister, and presumably Carswell had been a block to any ‘shenanigans’ on this. But just because he has left the building and seriously shaken up the Tories, it doesn’t mean that Carswell’s defection is helpful to the eurosceptic cause.
On the other hand, I expect Nigel Farage to have an extra pint today...