Unlike the American Political System, third parties have more influence in the British System. Currently, the Conservatives, by David Cameron, have the majority because of their fraught combination with the Liberal Democrats, with Lib-Dem deputy prime minister Nick Clegg. While their union makes strange bed-fellows on paper, the coalition permitted massive spending cuts in the first few years of the Cameron Government.
Concerns about immigration, government spending, Big Business and Big Government getting bigger have pushed Britons to the brink, and empowered an anti-establishment, pro-free market backlash from a formerly marginal third party, the United Kingdom Independence Party, otherwise known as UKIP. While the Conservative Party has made promise after promise to grant the United Kingdom an up-or-down vote on whether the country stays in the European Union, and whether the country becomes a nation of laws with a strong border control, UKIP reminds their countrymen that Conservatives have not kept their word.
Defections from the Tories have now broken out because of this lack of follow-through starting with Douglas Carswell, followed by Mark Reckless, with pressure on the Tories (another term for Conservatives) to stand by their values. Even though UKIP has peeled away Tory lawmakers, the party is also enfeebling the minority Labour Government. The liberals were hoping for an easy win next year, but now they are wondering whether they will have enough Members of Parliament (MPs) to hold any tenable majority after May 7th, 2015.
The two members who have defected to UKIP, Carswell and Reckless, were forced to resign their posts and run again in by-elections (special elections to US residents), where the two MPs won back their seats with commanding majorities. As members of another minority party, these two representatives must join with their former adversaries, the Labour members. Rather than receiving a warm welcome, they face similar opposition and ridicule for their new party's political views. Sometimes, the members have had to admit that the UKIP leaders are working on explaining their positions and establishing stances on key concerns.
In his first question [27:00 -- 29: 00] during Prime Minister’s Questions as a UKIP member, Douglas Carswell pressed his former colleague yet present Prime Minister about passing recall legislation, which would force representatives to respect and respond to their constituents’ concerns. Carswell's interest in his constituency and their interests did not change, but his decision to break away from disjointed leadership forced him to join the opposition. In other words, policy mattered more than politics, principle more than partisanship.
The display of courage from the second defector, Mark Reckless, commands great respect, too. Reckless took questions from his liberal Labour peers during a committee discussion on reforming the National Health Service. Just as the opposition will savage and boo the Prime Minister during questions, Reckless endured interruptions, outrages, scoffing, and a general disarray of disrespect from his new colleagues.
Yet he stood his ground, declared his views, and argued effectively with Labour members. Despite his infrequent stammering, he continued to relate political points, his defense for his new party, and the proper designs of the National Health Service. While conservatives around the world would dispute the role of government in health care, at least Reckless defended his party, and made the most of what little knowledge he possessed during the meeting.
The telling display of boldness from those two UKIP defectors provide profiles in political courage. Willing to break away from an unrepresentative majority, yet demanding the much-needed reforms they had campaigned on, Carswell and Reckless are demonstrating that populist momentum combined with grassroots support and a new media can shake up the Westminster political-class complacency, and for the better.
Imagine what would happen if Unite States Congressional representatives were forced to explain their views to their opposition in minority caucuses from time to time. What would happen if the Speaker of the House and the Majority Leader of the US Senate had to stand before both friendly as well as opposition colleagues and explain their views? House Speaker John Boehner would have more likely heeded the frustrations of the American people, fed up with a lawless President and his executive amnesty. Former Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid would have allowed votes on bipartisan legislation from the House. With the rising access to federal legislative procedures and discussions, individual citizens can see the work of their representatives (or the lack thereof) and hold them accountable to speak on their behalf. They should start talking more, and politicking less.
With the upcoming US Senate majority taking the upper chamber in January, following the passage of a pork-laden Cromibus bill filled with gimmes and gimmicks for the Left and the Right, the courage of third-party stalwarts like UKIP's Douglass Carswell and Mark Reckless should compel American representatives, Democrat and Republican, to revamp their positions of power and invigorate the legislative process. America’s leaders, and her citizens, should demand reform not just of American federal politics, but the daily procedures of governance and outreach still missing from the American republic.