Douglas Carswell

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Douglas Carswell
Douglas Carswell.jpg
Carswell in 2009
Member of Parliament
for Clacton
Harwich (2005–10)
In office
5 May 2005 – 3 May 2017
Preceded byIvan Henderson
Succeeded byGiles Watling
Personal details
John Douglas Wilson Carswell

(1971-05-03) 3 May 1971 (age 51)
London, England
Political partyConservative (before 2014, 2017–present)
Other political
UKIP (2014–2017)
Independent (2017)
SpouseClementine Bailey
Alma materUniversity of East Anglia
King's College London

John Douglas Wilson Carswell (born 3 May 1971) is a British former politician who served as a Member of Parliament from 2005 to 2017, co-founded Vote Leave and currently serves as president and CEO of the Mississippi Center for Public Policy.

As a member of the Conservative Party, Carswell was first elected as the MP for Harwich in 2005 and then for Clacton in 2010. In August 2014, he changed his political allegiance to the UK Independence Party (UKIP) and announced his resignation as an MP. He stood in the subsequent by-election and was returned under his new affiliation, becoming the first elected MP for UKIP.[1] He stated that he was joining UKIP out of a desire to see "fundamental change in British politics" and because he believed "many of those at the top of the Conservative Party are simply not on our side. They aren't serious about the change that Britain so desperately needs."[2]

In 2016, Carswell said that he had "jumped ship with the express goal of changing the image of UKIP and ensuring that it was an asset rather than a liability in the referendum campaign…to decontaminate the brand".[3] He left UKIP on 25 March 2017, to sit as an independent MP.[4][5] He did not stand at the 2017 general election.[6] In January 2021 he was appointed as president and CEO of the Mississippi Center for Public Policy.[7]

Education and early life[edit]

Carswell is the son of two physicians.[8] He lived in Uganda until his late teens. His father, Wilson Carswell, a Scottish doctor and Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons, diagnosed the first confirmed Ugandan cases of HIV/AIDS in the early 1980s,[9] and was one of a number of people engaged in drawing attention to the unfolding pandemic.[8] His father's experiences in Uganda were among the inspirations for the character Dr Nicholas Garrigan in Giles Foden's novel The Last King of Scotland.[10] Carswell later attributed his libertarianism to his experiences of the "arbitrary rule" of Idi Amin.[11] His mother, Margaret Jane née Clark (1935-2022) was a doctor and ornithologist.[12][13]

Carswell was educated at two independent boarding schools for boys: St Andrews School in Turi in Kenya in East Africa, and Charterhouse in Godalming, Surrey, in southern England,[14][15] followed by the University of East Anglia (UEA), where he was taught by Edward Acton, and graduated with an upper second-class honours bachelor's degree in history in 1993. He then attended King's College London, receiving a master's degree in British imperial history.[16]

Carswell worked as corporate development manager for television broadcasting in Italy from 1997 until 1999, and later for Invesco.[15]

Political career[edit]

At the 2001 general election, Carswell contested Sedgefield, the constituency of Prime Minister Tony Blair, as the Conservative candidate. Blair's majority fell by 7,430 votes with Carswell effecting a swing of 4.7% to the Conservatives[17] compared to 1997, against a national swing of 1.8%. In the months before the 2005 general election, Carswell worked in the Conservative Party's Policy Unit,[15] then run by David Cameron.[18]

Member of Parliament[edit]

First parliamentary term (2005–10)[edit]

Carswell was elected to the House of Commons at the 2005 general election for the constituency of Harwich, defeating Ivan Henderson, the sitting Labour Member of Parliament (MP), by 920 votes. He made his maiden speech on 28 June 2005 in the debate on the Identity Cards Bill.[19] He was a member of Conservative Friends of Israel. He served on the House of Commons' Education Select Committee and the Public Accounts Committee. In 2008, he took part in an Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme trip to Afghanistan, after which he called for more resources to be allocated to British troops serving there.[20]

In December 2009, Carswell tabled a Bill in the House of Commons calling for a public referendum on Britain's membership of the European Union (EU).[21] The Daily Telegraph nominated him a Briton of the Year 2009,[22] and Spectator readers voted him their choice as Parliamentarian of the Year in the same year.[23] In February 2010, he asked Gus O'Donnell to suspend Cabinet meetings held outside London,[24] when it was found that the government was using them to host Labour Party events in marginal seats.[25]

Second parliamentary term (2010–15)[edit]

In the new constituency of Clacton that was created from Harwich at the 2010 general election, Carswell increased his majority over Henderson to 12,068 votes. UKIP decided not to field a candidate against Carswell in the 2010 general election. Instead, the party actively campaigned in support of his re-election in view of his staunch anti-EU views.[26]

In the first week of the new parliamentary session of the Conservative-led Government, Carswell revealed that he intended to force a referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon, over the need to resolve an oversight of apportionment in the European Parliament by re-ratifying the treaty.[27]

Carswell also strongly advocated for electoral reform, including the right for constituents to be able to recall MPs.[28] The Recall of MPs Act 2015 later became law.

On 28 August 2014, Carswell defected from the Conservatives to UKIP. Although not required to do so, he resigned his seat as an MP, thus triggering a by-election.[29] Less than a month before switching parties, Carswell had approved a letter from Conservative supporter Giles Watling to a local newspaper describing UKIP as a "one policy party" and saying "a vote for Ukip will be a vote for Labour". He later said he had been "decidedly cool towards the sentiments of the letter."[11][30]

Clacton by-election[edit]

Following Carswell's resignation, Roger Lord, UKIP's nominated candidate for the 2015 general election, declared that he still wanted to stand, although the UKIP National Executive Committee voted to select Carswell.[31] Two early opinion polls showed Carswell with a substantial lead. He was successful at the by-election on 9 October 2014, with a substantial majority of 12,404 votes over his nearest rival.[citation needed]

Carswell later contrasted his willingness to put his switch of parties to the electorate to that of the eleven anti-Brexit MPs who switched to The Independent Group, none of whom held by-elections when changing parties. He noted "When I changed parties it didn't occur to me to not hold a by election. If my own electorate weren't supportive, what was the point?"[32]

Third parliamentary term (2015–17)[edit]

At the 2015 United Kingdom general election, Carswell won the seat of Clacton with a majority of 3,437 – down from a majority of 12,404 in the 2014 by-election. Carswell won UKIP's only seat in the general election.[33][34]

Carswell is a Eurosceptic,[35] and supported Vote Leave – advocating leaving the EU – during the EU referendum in June 2016.[36][37]

In March 2017, Carswell quit UKIP to become an independent MP for Clacton, leaving UKIP with no MPs in Parliament. On quitting the party he said, "Now we can be certain that that [Brexit] is going to happen, I have decided that I will be leaving Ukip."[38][39]

On 20 April 2017, following the announcement two days earlier by Prime Minister Theresa May of a snap UK general election, Carswell confirmed he would not be a candidate in the June election.[40][41]

His relationship with then-UKIP party leader Nigel Farage was full of "animosity" and "tension"; on several occasions he called for Farage to step down as party leader.[42] Farage called Carswell "irrelevant" in response to them supporting different campaigns to leave the European Union in the 2016 referendum.[43] In response to Carswell calling for the party leader's resignation, Farage said that Carswell should "put up or shut up", further saying that "either he's going to have to accept that [UKIP is unified] or do something different".[44] After Farage's resignation as UKIP leader following the EU referendum, Carswell tweeted a "sunshades smiley emoji",[45] which some parts of the media described as showing the "uneasy relationship" between the two men, Carswell later said to the BBC that "I tweet smiley faces all the time, I'm very optimistic".[46][47] He also said that while Farage had "played a role" in the referendum, the resignation was "a huge opportunity" for the party.[48] This happened a week after Farage suggested that Carswell could be kicked out of the party, saying that "We find somebody inside our party who doesn't agree with anything the party stands for, it's a very odd state of affairs".[49]

Parliamentary expenses scandal[edit]

After being elected in 2005, Carswell originally designated a £1 million flat in London as his second home, and claimed over £21,000 for food, rent and furniture. In 2007 he began renting a house in Thorpe-le-Soken in Essex, which he designated his second home, and again paid a deposit and for furniture, including a £655 love seat, from his expenses (see Flipping § Second home flipping). Between 2007 and 2009 he claimed £32,000 in expenses for the house, commenting "I believe this is entirely justified".[50][51] Following an investigation of the expenses of all MPs, he was ordered to repay £2,159 in expenses.[52]

Influence in the Conservative Party[edit]

Conservative Party commentator and Daily Telegraph columnist Charles Moore credits Carswell, together with MEP Daniel Hannan, as the architects behind the idea of a Great Repeal Bill, as well as the concept of a "Contract with Britain" offered during the election, the "recall" of MPs who have displeased their constituents, open primaries for the selection of parliamentary candidates, and plans for elected police commissioners. According to Moore's analysis not only is "The localism of the Carswell/Hannan "direct democracy" movement is now good Coalition orthodoxy", but Cameron's policy guru, Steve Hilton, "enthusiastically lifted several bits of The Plan", the best-selling moderniser book written by Carswell and co-author Daniel Hannan.[53]

Even before the formation of the Coalition, the influence of Carswell's ideas was evident in speeches made by David Cameron – including a speech to the Open University made by Cameron in Milton Keynes in May 2009.[54]

Influence on UKIP and Leave[edit]

New Statesman commentator Stephen Bush has argued that Carswell was correct to recognise that a successful Brexit campaign depended on its messages being associated with people other than Farage, but also observed that there "is no electoral majority to be found in Britain for the libertarian brand of conservatism that Carswell espouses".[55]

Bush also suggested that Carswell's ability to win his seat owed more to the appeal of his party to Clacton's voters than his own personal influence, observing that "the evidence suggests that he has kept his seat thanks to the popularity of the party leaders he has consistently undermined and worked against".[56]

During his time as a UKIP MP, Carswell, along with Mark Reckless and Stephen Crowther, established UKIP Parliamentary Resource Unit Limited.[57]

In June 2016, Carswell claimed that the UK "could very easily get a better trade deal than we have at the moment."[58]

After politics[edit]

Carswell co-founded Disruptive, a data analytics company.[59] Companies House filings show that he resigned as a Director on 10 April 2019.[60]

In November 2020, Carswell was appointed to a three-year term as a non-executive director for the Department for International Trade.[61]

In January 2021 Carswell was appointed as president and CEO of the Mississippi Center for Public Policy, and left the UK.[7][61][62] He now lives in Jackson, Mississippi.

In popular culture[edit]

Carswell was portrayed by actor Simon Paisley Day in the 2019 HBO- and Channel 4-produced drama Brexit: The Uncivil War.[63][64]

Personal life[edit]

Carswell and his wife Clementine have a daughter.[18]


  • Direct Democracy – Agenda for a New Model Party[Note 1]
  • Direct Democracy; empowering people to make their lives better.[Note 2]
  • Paying for Localism[Note 3]
  • Chief author of The Localist Papers[Note 4]
  • The Plan: Twelve Months to Renew Britain – co-written with Daniel Hannan.
  • The End of Politics and the Birth of iDemocracy
  • After Osbrown: Mending Monetary Policy
  • Rebel: How to overthrow an emerging oligarchy


  1. ^ 2005. ISBN 1-84275-057-7
  2. ^ C-change. 2002. ISBN 1-84275-057-7
  3. ^ Published by the Adam Smith Institute
  4. ^ Published by the Centre for Policy Studies, serialised in the Daily Telegraph May – June 2007. [1]


  1. ^ "UKIP gains first elected MP with Clacton win", BBC News. Accessed 10 October 2014.
  2. ^ "Tory MP Douglas Carswell defects to UKIP and forces by-election". BBC News. 28 August 2014. Retrieved 29 August 2014.
  3. ^ All Out War, Tim Shipman. William Collins, 2016 p. 40
  4. ^ "Douglas Carswell quitting UKIP". BBC News. 25 March 2017. Retrieved 25 March 2017.
  5. ^ "Job done – thank UKIP!". 25 March 2017. Archived from the original on 25 March 2017.
  6. ^ Elgot, Jessica; Booth, Robert; Walker, Peter (20 April 2017). "Former Ukip MP Douglas Carswell to step down in Clacton". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 April 2017.
  7. ^ a b "Douglas Carswell appointed MCPP President & CEO". Mississippi Business Journal. 5 January 2021. Retrieved 5 January 2021.
  8. ^ a b Powers, Charles T. (24 May 1986). "AIDS Epidemic Sweeps Through Uganda". Los Angeles Times.
  9. ^ Schoofs, Mark (4 July 2000). "Proof Positive". The Village Voice.
  10. ^ Pells, Rachael (10 October 2014). "Douglas Carswell profile: A prolific blogger who makes his own jam". The Independent. Retrieved 10 October 2014.
  11. ^ a b Wright, Oliver (10 October 2014). "Clacton by-election: 12 facts about Ukip's new MP Douglas Carswell". The Independent. Retrieved 10 October 2014.
  12. ^ Obituaries, Telegraph (15 April 2022). "Margaret Carswell, medic and ornithologist who painstakingly recorded Uganda's birdlife during turbulent times – obituary". The Telegraph. Retrieved 22 April 2022.
  13. ^ "Margaret Carswell obituary". The Times. 23 April 2022. Retrieved 23 April 2022.
  14. ^ "Douglas Carswell MP". ConservativeHome. Retrieved 10 October 2014.
  15. ^ a b c "Douglas CARSWELL: Biography". Debrett's. Archived from the original on 11 November 2014. Retrieved 12 May 2015.
  16. ^ "Who Is Douglas Carswell? What You Need To Know". Sky News. 10 October 2014. Retrieved 10 October 2014.
  17. ^ "Results & Constituencies: Sedgefield". BBC News. Retrieved 28 August 2014.
  18. ^ a b "Profile: Douglas Carswell MP". BBC News. 10 October 2014. Retrieved 12 May 2015.
  19. ^ "Identity Cards Bill (28 June 2005)". Hansard. Parliament. 28 June 2005. Retrieved 14 May 2010.
  20. ^ Calvert, Jonathan; Rowell, Andy (31 August 2008). "Tory MP Douglas Carswell 'punished' for damning army kit". The Sunday Times. London.
  21. ^ "European Union Membership (Referendum) Bill 2009–10". UK Parliament. Retrieved 28 August 2014.
  22. ^ "Britons of the Year, 2009". The Daily Telegraph. London. 29 December 2009.
  23. ^ "The Spectator/Threadneedle Parliamentarian Awards". The Spectator. 12 November 2009. Archived from the original on 16 November 2009.
  24. ^ Coates, Sam; Ralph, Alex (18 February 2010). "Labour uses Cabinet tour to rally party for election". The Times. London.
  25. ^ Kirkup, James (18 February 2010). "Ministers using Cabinet meetings to hold Labour events". The Daily Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on 21 February 2010.
  26. ^ "UKIP will actively campaign for the election of five Conservative candidates and one Labour candidate". 13 April 2010. Retrieved 15 July 2016.
  27. ^ "MPs poised to renew calls for Lisbon Treaty referendum". BBC News. 16 May 2010.
  28. ^ "UKIP MP Douglas Carswell on recall for MPs". YouTube. 12 October 2014. Archived from the original on 13 December 2021. Retrieved 23 January 2021.
  29. ^ Watt, Nicholas (28 August 2014). "Tory MP Douglas Carswell defects to Ukip and forces byelection". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 August 2014.
  30. ^ Swinford, Steven (7 October 2014). "Douglas Carswell signed off letter attacking Ukip a month before defecting". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 10 October 2014.
  31. ^ Quinn, Ben (28 August 2014). "Ukip Clacton candidate calls Carswell's attempt to stand 'bad manners'". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 August 2014.
  32. ^ "Independent Group: Three MPs quit Tory party to join". BBC News. 20 February 2019.
  33. ^ "Clacton parliamentary constituency – Election 2015". BBC News. Retrieved 25 March 2017.
  34. ^ Dwan, James. "Election 2015 – Ukip's Douglas Carswell retains Clacton seat". Clacton and Frinton Gazette. Retrieved 25 March 2017.
  35. ^ Grice, Andrew (28 August 2014). "Douglas Carswell defection: Eurosceptic ex-Tory MP fires parting shot". The Independent. Retrieved 26 March 2017.
  36. ^ Carswell, Douglas (9 October 2015). "Douglas Carswell: Why I'm backing Vote Leave in the EU referendum". Retrieved 26 March 2017.
  37. ^ Nisbet, Robert (26 February 2016). "UKIP Infighting Over Rival Leave EU Campaigns". Sky News. Retrieved 26 March 2017. Douglas Carswell supports Vote Leave, which is also...
  38. ^ "Ukip's only MP Douglas Carswell quits party". The Guardian. 25 March 2017. Retrieved 25 March 2017.
  39. ^ Randerson, James (25 March 2017). "Douglas Carswell quits UKIP, leaving party with no MPs". Politico. Retrieved 25 March 2017.
  40. ^ Carswell, Douglas (20 April 2017). "Over and Out". Douglas Carswell. Archived from the original on 21 April 2017. Retrieved 20 April 2017.
  41. ^ Stone, Jon (20 April 2017). "Douglas Carswell quits as an MP and says he will vote Tory in general election". The Independent. Retrieved 20 April 2017.
  42. ^ Mason, Rowena (18 December 2015). "Ukip's MP Douglas Carswell calls for Nigel Farage to quit as leader". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 March 2016.
  43. ^ UK, The Huffington Post (6 March 2016). "I've Won Four Elections Nigel, Carswell Reminds Ukip Leader". The Huffington Post UK. Retrieved 9 March 2016.
  44. ^ Mason, Rowena (18 December 2015). "Nigel Farage says Ukip's MP Douglas Carswell 'can put up or shut up'". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 March 2016.
  45. ^ Douglas Carswell [@DouglasCarswell] (4 July 2016). "😎" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  46. ^ Staufenberg, Jess (4 July 2016). "Ukip's only MP's response to Nigel Farage quitting was a thing of beauty". indy100. Archived from the original on 7 July 2016. Retrieved 4 July 2016.
  47. ^ "Douglas Carswell on UKIP leader Nigel Farage resignation". BBC News. 4 July 2016. Retrieved 4 July 2016.
  48. ^ Bernard, Philippe (4 July 2016). "Après le Brexit, la démission de Nigel Farage ouvre la guerre de succession au UKIP" [After Brexit, the resignation of Nigel Farage opens the war of succession to UKIP]. Le (in French). Retrieved 4 July 2016.
  49. ^ Agencies (4 July 2016). "Farage resigns as Ukip chief". Bangalore Mirror. Retrieved 4 July 2016.
  50. ^ Swaine, Jon (3 June 2009). "MPs' expenses: Douglas Carswell claimed £700 in expenses for love seat". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 15 June 2011.
  51. ^ Gover, Dominic (28 August 2014). "Douglas Carswell and the £650 'Love Seat' Which Mired Ukip MP in Expenses Scandal". International Business Times. Retrieved 28 August 2014.
  52. ^ "MPs to repay more than £1m in expenses | Lowestoft Journal". Lowestoft Journal. 4 February 2010.
  53. ^ Moore, Charles (2 July 2010). "Who will admit that the Right ways are not the wrong ways?". The Daily Telegraph. London.
  54. ^ "Daniel Hannan and Douglas Carswell wrote David Cameron's speech today on devolving power – thetorydiary". 26 May 2009. Retrieved 31 July 2009.
  55. ^ "Faragism, not Carswellism, will shape the UK's post-Brexit future". March 2017. Retrieved 5 August 2017.
  56. ^ Bush, Stephen (28 March 2017). "Stop talking about Douglas Carswell's personal vote. He won his seat because of Ukip".
  57. ^ "UKIP Parliamentary Resource Unit Limited – Filing history (free information from Companies House)". Retrieved 28 March 2018.
  58. ^ "10 politicians who claimed Brexit negotiations were going to be easy". 30 March 2019. Retrieved 23 June 2021.
  59. ^ "About Disruptive Analytica".
  60. ^ "Disruptive Communications Ltd. – Officers (free information from Companies House)".
  61. ^ a b Willingham, Leah (22 January 2021). "Brexit leader to head Mississippi public policy center". Associated Press. Retrieved 23 January 2021.
  62. ^ "Brexit leader to head Mississippi Center for Public Policy". WLBT. Retrieved 5 January 2021.
  63. ^ Bennett, Asa (28 December 2018). "Brexit: The Uncivil War review: Benedict Cumberbatch is superb in this thrilling romp through the referendum". The Daily Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 8 January 2019.
  64. ^ Elliott, Matthew (4 January 2019). "Vote Leave's Matthew Elliott on Channel 4's Brexit: The Uncivil War". Financial Times. Archived from the original on 11 December 2022. Retrieved 8 January 2019. Screenwriter James Graham has turned the campaign into a compelling story — and nailed my mannerisms

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by Member of Parliament
for Harwich

Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament
for Clacton

Succeeded by