Douglas Carswell

Douglas Carswell
Douglas Carswell MP
Member of Parliament
for Clacton
Harwich (2005-10)
Assumed office
5 May 2005
Preceded by Ivan Henderson
Majority 12,068 (28.0%)
Personal details
Born 3 May 1971 (1971-05-03) (age 40)
City of Westminster, London, England
Nationality British
Political party Conservative
Spouse(s) Clementine
Alma mater University of East Anglia
King's College London

John Douglas Wilson Carswell (born 3 May 1971) is a British Conservative Party politician. He is the Member of Parliament (MP) for Clacton, having been first elected as MP for Harwich in 2005.

He found prominence by calling for reform of parliamentary expenses before the 2009 expenses scandal, and leading the campaign to eject Michael Martin as Speaker of the House of Commons. A Eurosceptic and libertarian, Carswell is a strong advocate of greater localism, and has worked with Daniel Hannan to promote their 'localist agenda' in the Conservative Party.


Early life

Douglas Carswell is the son of two medical doctors, and grew up in Africa, where his parents worked amongst resource-starved communities.[1] His home was in Uganda until his late teens. His father, Wilson Carswell, a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons, diagnosed the first confirmed cases of HIV/AIDS, in Uganda in the early 1980s,[2] and was instrumental in drawing the world's attention to the unfolding pandemic.[1]

Carswell was educated at St Andrews School, Kenya, Charterhouse School, the University of East Anglia, where he graduated with a degree in history in 1993, and at King's College London where he graduated with a degree in British Imperial History. He worked as Corporate Development Manager for Television Broadcasting in Italy from 1997-9, and for INVESCO, reporting to the Continental Europe regional CEO, from 1999 before entering politics.

At the 2001 General Election, he was the Conservative candidate at Sedgefield: the constituency of the Prime Minister Tony Blair. Blair's majority fell by 7,500 votes, and Carswell managed to increase the Conservative share of the vote by 3.1% of the electorate.[3] In the months before the 2005 General Election, he worked in the Conservative Party's Policy Unit, reporting to David Cameron.

Member of Parliament

First parliament

Douglas Carswell was elected to Parliament at the 2005 General Election for the constituency of Harwich, defeating the sitting Labour MP Ivan Henderson by 920 votes. Carswell made his maiden speech on 28 June 2005 in the debate on the Identity Cards Bill.[4] He is a member of Conservative Friends of Israel. Carswell serves on the House of Commons Education Select Committee and the Public Accounts Committee.

Shortly after entering Parliament, Carswell wrote a publication 'Direct Democracy: an agenda for a new model party'. This publication has been described by The Spectator (2 June 2007) as "one of the founding texts of the new, revitalised Toryism .... written by some of the brightest young Conservative thinkers". It sets out much of the thinking that has now become central to the Conservatives under David Cameron MP. In July 2005, Carswell became a founder member of the Cornerstone Group representing the traditional conservative wing of Toryism. He also founded Direct Democracy, a group of like-minded modernisers within the party committed to making localism the core of the Conservative Party's platform.

After returning from an Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme (AFPS) trip to Afghanistan, Carswell criticised the poor equipment and lack of helicopters that he'd witnessed, for which he was ejected from the AFPS.[5]

Carswell made his mark at Westminster, bringing about the removal of a Speaker of the House of Commons for the first time in over 300 years.[6] He defied convention in April 2008,[7] when he became the first MP to publicly call for the Speaker of the House of Commons Michael Martin to be fired after his failure to ensure greater transparency as to how the House of Commons is run.[8] No other MPs would speak publicly against Martin at the time, and Labour ex-minister Denis MacShane called for Carswell to be disciplined for this call.[9] Despite suggestions that Carswell would never be called to speak in the House again, Martin called him to speak at Prime Minister's Questions for the first time the following week.[10] He pressed this again in September 2008, arguing that Martin opposed 'all reform on principle' on the issue of second-home allowances and expenses.[7] In May 2009, he then put forward the motion of no confidence, backed by 23 MPs, which triggered Martin's downfall in June.[11]

During the 2009 expenses scandal, the Daily Telegraph published his expenses showing he had claimed, amongst other things, a £655 'love seat'[12] and had flipped his second home.

In December 2009, Carswell introduced a Bill before the House of Commons requesting a public referendum on British EU membership.[13][self-published source?] In February 2010, he asked Gus O'Donnell to suspend Cabinet meetings held outside London,[14] when it was found that the government was using them to host Labour Party events in marginal seats.[15]

Second parliament

In the new constituency of Clacton at the 2010 General Election, Carswell increased his majority over Henderson to 12,068 votes. The eurosceptic United Kingdom Independence Party decided not to field a candidate against Carswell in the 2010 general election. Instead, UKIP actively campaigned for his re-election as a result of his anti-EU views.[16]

In the first week of the new parliament, Carswell revealed he intended to force a referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon, when it became necessary to re-ratify it to resolve an oversight of apportionment in the European Parliament.[17][18]

Political positions

Carswell is an outspoken and independent-minded radical, having allied on certain issues with politicians ranging from Daniel Hannan to the chairman of the Socialist Campaign Group, John McDonnell.[9] Dod's political biography describes Carswell as being "Tall and Eurosceptic ... one of his party's radical thinkers". Carswell was described in The Sunday Times in July 2008 as 'one of the energetic young Tory modernisers elected to the Commons in 2005'.[10]

Carswell has been an outspoken advocate of political reform, and action to clean up Westminster politics.[19] He has proposed radical change to force politicians to answer outward to the electorate, rather than to other politicians.[20] In recognition of his stance, the Daily Telegraph nominated him a Briton of the Year 2009,[21] and Spectator readers voted him their choice as Parliamentarian of the Year for that same year.[22]

Carswell is sceptical of anthropogenic global warming, believing current climate change to be driven by non-human factors. He came to this position after reading Ian Plimer's Heaven and Earth.[23][24]

Carswell is the only Conservative MP returned at the 2010 general election to have openly advocated proportional representation.[25]

Influence in the Conservative Party

According to conservative commentator Charles Moore, Carswell has had significant influence over Coalition government policy.[26] Moore credits Carswell, together with MEP Daniel Hannan, as the architects behind the idea of a Great Repeal Bill, as well as the idea of a ""Contract with Britain" offered during the election, the "recall" of MPs who have displeased their constituents, open primaries for the selection of candidates, and plans for elected police commissioners.".[26] 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, "has enthusiastically lifted several bits of The Plan", the best-selling moderniser book written by Carswell and co-author Daniel Hannan.

Even before the formation of the Coalition, the influence of Carswell's ideas was evident in speeches made by David Cameron - most notably a speech to the Open University made by David Cameron in Milton Keynes in May 2009.[27] Blogger Guido Fawkes, who describes The Plan as a "huge hit, an Amazon bestseller and the all-time best-selling publish-on-demand publication ever sold by Amazon", also noted the influence of the book on Conservative thinking.[28]

Carswell has frequently been invited to speak at conferences and seminars on a range of policy topics in which he has no formal role within the party, such as reform of the criminal justice system,[29] constitutional reform,[30] defence and local government.

In July 2009, the Conservatives announced they would be using full, open primary contests to select candidates for the first time, another illustration of the way that ideas in The Plan have been adopted by the Conservatives.

Significantly, the new Coalition Government's legislative agenda announced in the Queen's Speech in May 2010, included two ideas originally put forward by Carswell. Carswell and Hannan were the first to suggest a Great Repeal Bill in The Plan. They proposed that the Bill should be a wiki-Bill, with members of the public directly contributing to the list of laws and regulations to be repealed.[31]

Also included in the Queen's Speech were proposals to put a "directly elected individual" in charge of local policing. Carswell was the first British Conservative to propose this idea in print in his October 2002 pamphlet Direct Democracy; empowering people to make their lives better.

Carswell was the first to demand that Commons select committees should have power to approve Whitehall department budgets [32] and confirm appointments of senior officials. He insisted that the new head of the Office of Budget Responsibility be subjected to a confirmation hearing by the Treasury select committee,[33] an innovation accepted by Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne.


  • 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.


  1. ^ 13 June 2005. ISBN 1-84275-057-7
  2. ^ C-change. October 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. ^ a b Powers, Charles T. (24 May 1986). "AIDS Epidemic Sweeps Through Uganda". Los Angeles Times. 
  2. ^ Schoofs, Mark (4 July 2000). "Proof Positive". The Village Voice. 
  3. ^ "Sedgefield". UK Polling Report. Retrieved 14 May 2010. 
  4. ^ "Identity Cards Bill (28 June 2005)". Hansard. Parliament. 28 June 2005. Retrieved 14 May 2010. 
  5. ^ Calvert, Jonathan; Rowell, Andy (31 August 2008). "Tory MP Douglas Carswell 'punished' for damning army kit". The Sunday Times (London). 
  6. ^ "Political Biographies, Constituency & MP Profiles, News, Online Bookshop". DodOnline. Retrieved 2009-07-31. 
  7. ^ a b Carlin, Brendan (28 September 2008). "Tory MP launches fresh bid to oust 'touchy, stubborn' Speaker". Daily Mail (London). 
  8. ^ Carswell, Douglas (13 April 2008). "Fearless Tory becomes first MP to call for Speaker to quit". Daily Mail (London). 
  9. ^ a b Hencke, David (14 April 2008). "Tory MP under fire for calling on Speaker to step down". The Guardian (London). 
  10. ^ a b Robinson, Stephen (27 July 2008). "Michael Martin: the speaker cornered". The Sunday Times (London). 
  11. ^ "Speaker quits 'for sake of unity'". BBC News. 19 May 2009. 
  12. ^ Jon Swaine (3 June 2009). "MPs' expenses: Douglas Carswell claimed £700 in expenses for love seat". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 15 June 2011. 
  13. ^
  14. ^ Coates, Sam; Ralph, Alex (18 February 2010). "Labour uses Cabinet tour to rally party for election". The Times (London). 
  15. ^ Kirkup, James (18 February 2010). "Ministers using Cabinet meetings to hold Labour events". The Daily Telegraph (London). 
  16. ^
  17. ^ Groves, Jason (17 May 2010). "Eurosceptics in plot to force vote on Lisbon Treaty". Daily Mail (London). 
  18. ^ "MPs poised to renew calls for Lisbon Treaty referendum". BBC News. 16 May 2010. 
  19. ^ Moore, Charles (16 October 2009). "There's nothing swivel-eyed about rebuilding Britain's democracy". The Daily Telegraph (London). 
  20. ^ Wheeler, Brian (22 May 2009). "Time for a Westminster revolution?". BBC News. 
  21. ^ "Britons of the Year, 2009". The Daily Telegraph (London). 29 December 2009. 
  22. ^ "The Spectator/Threadneedle Parliamentarian Awards". The Spectator. 12 November 2009. 
  23. ^ Hickman, Leo (30 November 2009). "Douglas Carswell: How the facts on global warming have changed". The Guardian (London). 
  24. ^ Randerson, James (4 December 2009). "Climate sceptics: are they gaining any credence?". The Guardian (London). 
  25. ^ Elliot, Francis; Watson, Roland (8 May 2010). "How Cameron's secret kitchen cabinet had to rethink plans for power". The Times (London). 
  26. ^ a b Moore, Charles (2 July 2010). "Who will admit that the Right ways are not the wrong ways?". The Daily Telegraph (London). 
  27. ^ "Daniel Hannan and Douglas Carswell wrote David Cameron's speech today on devolving power - thetorydiary". 2009-05-26. Retrieved 2009-07-31. 
  28. ^ "Cameron : My Government Will Be "Open, Online All the Time" - Guy Fawkes' blog". 2009-05-26. Retrieved 2009-07-31. 
  29. ^
  30. ^ "Electoral Reform: Right question? Right answer? And who decides?". RSA. 2009-06-17. Retrieved 2009-07-31. 
  31. ^
  32. ^
  33. ^

External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
New constituency
Member of Parliament for Clacton
Preceded by
Ivan Henderson
Member of Parliament for Harwich
Constituency abolished

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