POLITICS

Douglas Carswell's Defection Triggers Renewed Calls For Ukip-Tory Pact

28/08/2014 16:48 BST | Updated 28/08/2014 17:59 BST

Douglas Carswell's shock defection to Ukip has led to renewed calls by some Tory backbenchers for the party to form a pact with Nigel Farage's party at the 2015 general election.

Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg told The Huffington Post UK: "I think the Tories and Ukip should work together because we have pretty similar aims, whereas by being divided, we split 'small-c' conservatism and make it all the more likely that Ed Miliband will win."

Asked if he might follow Carswell's lead by defecting to Ukip, the North-East Somerset MP said: "I certainly wouldn't".

The eurosceptic backbencher urged Tories to react "calmly" to Carswell's departure. He argued that Carswell's timing was a "mistake" as "the party was coming around to his way of thinking - he's quitting when he's winning".

Rees-Mogg has previously also called for Tory candidates to stand on a joint "coupon" with Ukip in cases when the two parties agreed.

He told the BBC in May: "With the promise of a referendum, the Conservative Party and Ukip are moving in exactly the same direction, that is offering British people a final decision on whether we have continued membership of the European Union. That is surely pushing us towards a coupon of some kind."

David Cameron said Carswell's defection was "deeply regrettable" and "self-defeating". But one Tory source admitted to HuffPost that the defection "could put a wind in Ukip's sails" and had "put the [Tory] party on the back foot". The source added: "It's unfortunate timing because we won't really be focusing on our marginal seats."

The idea of an electoral pact has been mooted as a way to halt the rise of Ukip, as it would see Ukip stand down their candidates in areas where certain eurosceptic Tories were running, and vice versa. Tory chairman Grant Shapps has previously said that there was "no question" of the pact, or candidates standing on joint tickets, happening.

Arch-eurosceptic Tory backbencher Bill Cash, chair of the Commons European Scrutiny Committee, gave a mixed endorsement of Rees-Mogg's suggested electoral pact.

He told HuffPost: "I'd argue it's for Ukip to enter into a pact with us. We are in a majority, they are a few but a dangerous minority.

Cash said that Carswell's defection was a "massive misjudgement", "self-defeating" and "an exercise in political vanity which will end up producing exactly the opposite of what he will like."

"I think, in the national interest, he should regret his decision," he said, citing the European Union as the "driving issue" behind Carswell's defection."

See also: