In his resignation note, Carswell says that it's "mission accomplished" as far as UKIP are concerned, and so there is little point staying around. Nothing, you understand, to do with his summons before the party's NEC, due to be heard Monday afternoon, on allegations that he derailed a knighthood for Nigel Farage. Indeed, old NF himself on Sophy Ridge this Sunday has pledged to stand against Carswell in Clacton next time. There's little chance of that happening, seeing he's a serial bottler. Still, for those of us who despise UKIP some grim satisfaction can be reaped from their implosion as politics comes to grips with the damage they and their highly placed enabling friends have wreaked.
Carswell's resignation is just the latest in the party's pattern of decline. Some might say it was inevitable, but ask yourself this. Do you think he would have resigned if UKIP were doing much better in the polls, if UKIP were driving the news agenda again, and if UKIP had won in Stoke and therefore sustained the momentum of its pre-general election hay day? Of course he wouldn't have.
As argued many times previously, UKIP properly got legs in the wake of the Equal Marriage row as thousands of "unreconstructed" shire Tories decamped and threw their lot in with the purple party. Because the Conservative Party is in long-term decline - it remains to be seen if Theresa May has permanently reversed its fortunes (I'm guessing not) - UKIP as the repository for their most cranky and backward erstwhile supporters, as well as the flotsam and jetsam of the terrified petit bourgeoisie and lumpenising sections of the working class meant they became something and rose to prominence as a force destined for long-term decline. This was written into their DNA not just because its core support was old, nor that it was getting power from strata that are sinking, as important both these things are, but also because UKIP was fusing together ex-Tories, ex-Labour, and the small but, inside a small party, significant bigoted floating voter tendency. With little in the way of stabilisers from its class base, and a membership united only by anti-Europe and anti-immigration sentiments it was always going to be a volatile affair. And that has more or less been the UKIP story since day one: treason and plot.
Despite congenital instability, UKIP was successful because, eventually, Farage emerged as its undisputed 'charismatic' leader and, this cannot be overstated, the media gave UKIP a massive leg up. As the political establishment were seriously spooked by their ubiquity, the party gained momentum. In 2013 and 2014, it came second wherever a parliamentary by-election took place - coming closest in Eastleigh and Heywood and Middleton. It did very well in those years' local elections too, and they were constantly, ceaselessly talked up by the press and broadcast media as primarily a threat to Labour. However, once momentum was lost, which arguably was the case from the general election on (despite last year's gain in Wales), the wheels rattled loose of the bandwagon. As forecast by Farage himself, failure in Stoke meant an exacerbation of UKIP's crisis. Coming after the unlamented departures of Diane James and Steven Woolfe, so Arron Banks has withdrawn his support and is asking for £200k worth of donations back, there's the European Parliament investigation into alleged UKIP expenses fiddles, and now Carswell. It won't be long before others decamp. For instance, what of Suzanne Evans, who is paid by Carswell to carry his bags?
Had the Brexit vote gone the other way, or had Labour set its face against the result then UKIP would likely be enjoying a new lease of life. The predictions of the London ignorati about the cleaning up in Labour constituencies may have come to pass. But that didn't happen. Carswell reaffirms what I've been arguing for the last two years: the declinist tendency is strongly asserting itself and UKIP is collapsing. Its fall might be noisy, it might attract a bit of media attention, but the ginger group of UKIP's future is beckoning the present to hurry up and be it. And it surely will, until the conditions align again for populist right/fascist-lite politics.