“Theresa May should be seeking to use the talents of people of other parties who have something to offer. Gisela Stuart is one; Douglas Carswell is another.” – ConservativeHome, March 26.
Now both are to leave the Commons, which is no surprise in either case. Both are out of sympathy with their parties; Carswell so much that he has actually left the one he left the Conservatives to join. Both represented marginal seats that they were likely to lose. Stuart in any event is 61, and would have stood down in 2020.
And both still have a lot to offer. In one sense, the coming election will be a conventional one, fought between the main political parties as usual. In another, it is unusual: a snap election called by a Government with a workable majority, following a referendum with record turnout that strained – and in some cases shattered – party loyalties among voters.
If Theresa May really intends to make the Conservatives a dominant electoral force on the scale of Thatcher’s Conservatives or Blair’s Labour, she needs, as they did, to win and keep defectors. Thatcher had Reg Prentice and the Right Turn defectors, including Paul Johnson, Rhodes Boyson and Hugh Thomas. Blair had Sean Woodward, Alan Howarth, Robert Jackson, and others.
May, in turn, can look to the Vote Leave campaign. She didn’t support it. But she wouldn’t be in Downing Street without it. Carswell ensured that it had the backing of UKIP’s only MP, which was crucial in winning it designation as the official leave campaign. And Stuart played a crucial role in those referendum TV debates.
So the Prime Minister could do worse than ensure that Stuart is sent to the Lords, perhaps with some responsibility for workers’ employment rights post-Brexit.
As for Carswell, we suggested recently that he might be sent to Uganda, where he was raised during the Idi Amin years. (His father was one of the first medical researchers to identify HIV/AIDS there.)
On reflection, this seems rather a long way away to send someone with so many original ideas for domestic policy. Perhaps John Godfrey could find a place for him in the Downing Street Policy Unit.