Despite party leader Nigel Farage’s claims that those wanting the UK to leave the EU were “a united force”, the UKIP party conference has shown the reality to be anything but.
Views at the conference, the specific purpose of which is to decide the party’s policy on leaving the EU, have differed wildly, with Mr Farage pledging his support to the group Leave.eu, a united group of several anti-EU campaigners.
Douglas Carswell, the party’s sole MP in Westminster, has, however, suggested that he will back Business For Britain, a different group which has not fully reached a decision on whether it will back leaving the EU.
Mr Carswell, who defected from the Conservatives last year, is expected to urge the collected UKIP supporters to make an “optimistic and upbeat” case with regards to the in-out EU referendum, which will be held before the end of 2017. The referendum would represent the first public vote on Europe in more than forty years.
The Clacton MP has become the centre of many rumours after a claim was made in the Guardian that Mr Carswell could face deselection from the party if he fails to back leave.eu, and he is reported to have had several angry exchanges of views with various delegates at the conference on the matter.
Since his return to parliament last year as a UKIP MP, Mr Carswell has dissented on party policy several times, continuing his reputation from the Conservative party as a radical and unconventional political thinker. Today, he is expected to praise the British people for “being more tolerant than ever”, and say that UKIP “must never blame outsiders” for issues relating to outsiders or immigrants, a stance vastly at odds with Mr Farage’s well-publicised views on the matter.
Despite criticism from various sides, Mr Carswell has described the founders of Business For Britain as “individuals with a proven track record of winning referendums”, saying that they “have a pretty good chance” of becoming the official “out” contingent in the coming referendum.
The split in party stance is causing waves as the conference in Doncaster enters its second day.