- The contest should see an end to the practice of Conservative MPs being ordered, via the Whips Office, to visit by-elections up to four times. “It’s only right when there’s a shortage of activists in the area,” a ’22 Executive source told me. “MPs are very happy to telephone canvass several times, but they’re lots of other work to do. What about those who are trying to hold marginal seats themselves?”
- Downing Street and CCHQ should on no account target Douglas Carswell over his expenses, where he lives, or where he educates his children, the source said, adding that “any such tactic is likely to blow up in our faces”. James Forsyth raised this possibility yesterday. Some Tory MPs are clearly unhappy about fighting the by-election hard – see Nigel Evans’s remarks – and in some cases visiting Clacton to oppose Carswell at all, though my sense is that these will be a minority.
UKIP agrees with a substantial minority of Conservative MPs that Britain should leave the EU. Some of the latter have at least some sympathy with the former. It is not impossible that more will defect. If any are mulling this over, they will presumably wait for the Clacton result before deciding how to proceed. David Cameron is leader of the Party and the ’22 represents backbench MPs – so it’s not in a bad position to tell him what they’re thinking. Given the seriousness of the situation, Downing Street and the Whips should be using the ’22 as a sounding board rather more than seems to be the case.