If you fancy Jeremy Hunt as Prime Minister, vote UKip
The last two days have been, without doubt, the best ever for UKip. They took a quarter of a national vote about local issues – an excellent performance, and one that fits well with their general devolutionary story: ‘UKIP stands for bringing back power to the people; for decisions made locally, not nationally; for common-sense policies that make people’s lives easier, and government that does what the people need, and no more’. I buy into those aims 100%. The only thing that’s missing is the chance for them to show how, with Council control, they can put their aims into practice. This is an important step when you consider what UKip promises to do, given the chance:
• Tax should be as low as possible.
• Protecting the greenbelt – opposing wind farms and HS2.
• Cracking down on crime and anti-social behaviour.
• More police on the streets.
• Cutting council executives and managers, not front-line
• Controlling immigration.
• Giving real decision-making to local communities
• Money for local services, not the EU
Lower local taxes, more police, less crime, firing fat-cats, power to the People. Very few people, in fact, would fail to salute those policies. But the truth is that, after polling a quarter of all the votes in a national election, UKip still hasn’t got a single Council to play with. In exactly the same was as, having been a part of political life in Britain for twenty years, it still hasn’t won a single seat.
Now there are two ways of answering that. First, the UKip line: “The electoral system is unfair”; and second, the sceptic’s observation: “So how has George Galloway done it twice in ten years, and you haven’t?”
There too, UKip would argue that Galloway has just the one issue, and his supporters are concentrated in obvious boroughs. To which the sceptic’s response would be that UKip has one overriding aim – withdrawal from the EU – that is hugely attractive to older Tory voters and the dispossessed poor. In other words, there are around 40 Commons seats for the Party to keep an eye on, and take advantage of at by-elections. And over two decades, UKip hasn’t won a single one.
This remains, for me, a major worry about UKip: strategically, it’s not really on the ball. It doesn’t seem to have the ambition to rule that you’d expect. My second worry is that their policies are very how-would-you-like-it-to-be, rather than longer-term solutions to Britain’s balance of Government. Looking specifically again at the Local Elections Manifesto:
• Cut costs. ‘We believe that council taxes should go down, not up, especially when times are tough and people are finding it hard to make ends meet. That means finding ways of delivering services more cost-effectively, not just automatically cutting service delivery’. Excellent. Tell us about the ‘ways’.
• Improve services. ‘Good management, partnership working and sensible planning, based on the single aim of working for local people rather than playing political games, can transform the way local government is delivered. Working with and energising volunteers and community groups can pay dividends. Ending EU open door immigration and putting local people first will ease the pressure that local services are under’. Er…hmm. So it’s all going to come from more sensibly managed, apolitical volunteers and fewer foreigners. I’m all for population control, but most of them are here already: there’s an awful lot of working, transforming and ending in there, but not a lot on how.
• Achieve consensus. ‘UKIP is unique in local government, because we do not ‘whip’ our councillors to follow party diktats, or toe the party line. Instead, we expect our councillors to represent the wishes of their electors at all times.’ Right. So you’re going to be a rabble. Fair enough.
• Stop the local government ‘gravy train’. ‘Council executives earning more than the Prime Minister, rising councillors’ expenses, unnecessary departments doing politically-correct things like diversity monitoring, these are where we will cut, not at the front line or among the low-paid’. Whether it has any effect on the overall budget or not, I agree with all of this. I would even add that the deliberately political cutting of front-line necessity while continuing to look for maximal diversity outcomes is a classic Labour trick. But although what’s being suggested here – take out the top tier of management entirely – is admirable, it’s still a small proportion of total local government spending. The problem in local government is that it no longer gets much money from central government, because since 1970 Britain has been steadily going broke. Take out all the pc bollocks and it will improve matters; but it won’t make big savings. There is no way to do that other than by reducing services. That’s reality.
• Preserve our communities. ‘We don’t believe that councils have to stand by and just wave through the wishes of central government and big business. So we’ll stand up for local decision-making and fight proposals like unwanted housing developments, unwanted out-of-town supermarkets and inappropriate energy schemes like, incinerators, wind and solar farms that will ruin the character of our communities’. Well, you can mount as many barricades as you like ducky, these decisions are made on the basis of power, money, funny handshakes, and blatant corruption. I’m sure UKIppers would stand up and fight; and I’m equally sure it would make knob-all difference. The issue here is how to take away the power from big business and central government. And without national power chaps, it ain’t gonna happen.
At the more general level of its local Manifesto, UKip does talk specifically about putting more police on the streets, tackling anti-social behaviour, and cracking down on crime. All this costs money – big money. Firing the bigwigs at the top won’t cut it, lads. I’m not nit-picking here: I am trying to make a huge and serious point. Local government costs an enormous (and rising) amount of money because Whitehall is skint, and the British culture is going downhill on it’s way to Hell in a bucket. There are no easy answers to those simple facts: slash the cost of central government and restore social discipline, fine. That’s what we need. And that in turn means massive educational reform, plus somehow persuading folks brought up on decades of lax parenting and community selfishness that they should shape up and fly right.
That conclusion, in fact, leads directly into my third and biggest concern about UKip: it one has one wing. It is a Right Wing. It’s actually, when you get down to it, the Monday Club reborn in cavalry twill trousers down at the local George’s Cross Arms. It’s a very good Right Wing for the part, and I’ve got nothing against it. That’s the trouble, neither have they. It’s very hard to fly with one wing: even Hitler pretended to have two.
Now the last thing I’m suggesting is that UKip should bolt on some Socialism. Regular Sloggers must surely know by now that I think the entire left/right debate is a good half century behind the music. All I’m saying here is that without some form of socio-cultural philosphy, all a Party like UKip can do is promise. It can’t set out the why and how of it all. But then, that’s been my problem with Nigel Farage for over two years now: he doesn’t want a broader philosophy, because that would open a can crammed to the top with horribly wriggly worms. More to the point, Nigel doesn’t need one: he wants to shift UK politics further to what I would call the Independent Right. And let’s face it, the quick way to achieve that is to hoof out Camerlot and replace it with Borishunt-on-Fallongove.
Let’s look more closely at the national Manifesto for UKip. I think it might give us some clues.
The first thing one spots about UKip policies
is that quite a few of them are either under review or discussion pieces. As one of these is immigration and another is tax, those are fairly big issues about which sceptics might require further guidance. But skipping the mere nit-picking detail of a sceptic, this is the Ukip Plan in outline….and before you ask, unless the grammatical sense has been impaired, everything below is exactly word for word as per the link above to UKip literature.
* The EU. UKIP policy is to leave the European Union. Hurrah – bring it on. Preferably before it implodes under its own weight anyway.
* Immigration. UKIP calls for an end to the age of mass, uncontrolled immigration. UKIP would introduce a five year freeze on immigration for permanent settlement (with some exceptions). Not here – an end to ‘the age of’, ‘a five year freeze’, and ‘with some exceptions’. This one is under review. As it’s always been a central plank of UKip policy, one wonders why. What we must do in the UK is stop all immigration, period: this alone will focus Government minds on the retraining of the workers we already have. The replacement of Media Studies with electrical engineering, domestic plumbing, and cabinet making would be a welcome start.
* Food & Farming. UKIP will implement policies to breathe new life into the rural economy and enhance the countryside. UKIP will use labelling and advertising campaigns to promote British produce and fairer food prices. This will replace the need for many subsidies. Change legislation to allow the formation of a greater number of producer co-operatives, putting food producers on a more equal footing with supermarket buyers. The first two sentences above are woffle, the third plainly wrong. The last one, however, is an excellent idea. Just don’t try selling it to the Tory Party.
* Tax. Taxation needs to be drastically reduced but only alongside equally drastic cuts in public spending. The main thrust of UKIP tax policy will be flat tax with high thresholds, for too long the tax entry level has been too low. The flat rate of 25% ensures people are motivated to work as hard and as long as they wish without seeing confiscatory levels of government tax. This is all, for me, too wishful – and nowhere near radical enough. There is only one area of public spending still available for massive cuts: the size of the Civil Service and its pension arrangements…especially in Whitehall. A flat rate of 25% is still an income tax. Tax law should be an incentive to work hard and behave well. One’s income is one’s own affair; but if one uses wealth for anti-social ends, then one should be expected to pay a penalty. Multinational corporate tax avoidance is a disgrace, as are the legions of tax accountants who serve it. Both must be ended immediately. If the companies go elsewhere, fine. Fairness has to start somewhere.
* Health. The UK Independence Party is well aware of how highly the NHS is valued by the people of this country and has no plans to make fundamental changes to it. UKIP will direct the majority of health care spending to elected County Health Boards, making spending decisions directly accountable to the public locally, and dramatically cut the Department of Health, and bring in professional procurement skills to reduce the huge amounts of money wasted in procurement and resource allocation. Procurement is the only sensible policy in here. I’m afraid the NHS is in need of drastic change, the main one being to move it away from both government and private supply via mutualisation. County Health Boards will simply turn into yet another bloated quango full of Blimps. Mutualisation between the service and the community is the only viable answer at the moment. Don’t cut the Department for Health, abolish it.
* Small Business. UKIP supports small businesses and we will do all we can to provide the right framework to support SMEs. Small businesses are the backbone of a dynamic, entrepreneurial economy and society. They are the innovators, creators and activists, people who take an idea and run with it in the marketplace. Again, fluffy statements of intent and admiration, but no real policy in sight.
You may have noticed by the way that – beyond the vapours about SME businesses above – UKip doesn’t have much to say about Globalism, the dominance of the City and financial services, and the free ride that most multinationals get in Britain. It also has nothing at all to offer us about making business British again, rather than just a motley crew of foreign employers at whose whim we will remain. But this is possibly unfair, in that just because there is no specific upfront Manifesto literature about it doesn’t mean UKip doesn’t have good ideas about that sort of stuff. So let’s get back to basics, and what for me should be the definitive UKip positioning statement: What We Stand For.
Unfortunately, the document at the link above contains more apple pie, soaring above the clouds, and Vera Lynn. Based on the specific approaches outlined above by UKip, the WWSF bit simply doesn’t stack up.
There are six headings in it: Restore Self Government & Democracy, Rebuild Prosperity, Protect Our Borders & Defend Our Country, Safeguards Against Crime, Care And Support For All, and Our Way Of Life. I’m disappointed that Time Travel, Cold Fusion, A Jag in every garage and Free Beer on Sundays were left out of the policy grab-bag, but you can’t have everything. The following should, however, serve as guidance – with my comments it italics as before.
Abolish the EU’s bureaucratic VAT and replace it with a local sales tax to support Local Government finance and to make it accountable at the ballot box. Give the public power to require binding local and national referenda on major issues. Not sure that many SMEs will want a local sales tax. I’d also imagine that whether one makes such a tax ‘accountable at the ballot box’, the usual activists will still vote in the usual suspects in local government, for whom such a tax would be manna from Heaven…but inflationary, and bad for the retail economy. The Dictatorship of the Proletariat in the last bit there is a terrible idea: we need leaders that lead, not government by TV-button. And the plural of referendum is referendums.
We must cut down Government if we are to return to a sound economy. EU ‘renewable’ energy rules will double electricity bills by 2020. Scrap all green taxes and adopt nuclear power to free us from dependence on fossil fuels and foreign oil and gas. Cut taxes on small businesses and abolish the Employers’ National Insurance. Yes, we must cut down on Government and no, we will not simply be able to remove ENI. Yes, we should follow the nuclear route but no, we shouldn’t be using uranium simply because a foreign company, EDF, wants to do that. Yes, we should be looking for a form of solar power beyond nuclear, but that’s not in there. Shame really – it should be.
The State must defend its peoples. Keep our nuclear deterrent and make increased defence spending a clear priority, even in these difficult times, to underpin Britain’s global role. Keeping the nuclear deterrent is unaffordable and has been for decades: it is also pointless given existing delivery technology is already making missiles redundant. And Britain doesn’t have a global role, so FFS get over it.
No cuts to front line policing. Make sentences mean what they say – life must mean life. Double prison places to enforce zero tolerance on crime. Just a couple of small points here: prison doesn’t work, prisoner reform does; doubling prison places and giving the police more money isn’t possible if you want to cut down on government.
Assure for all people prompt and caring treatment in ill health. Launch partnerships with the private and charity sectors to increase efficiency and choice and bring in health care vouchers for those who wish to opt out of the NHS. End the 50% university target for school leavers , scrap tuition fees and reintroduce student grants. Please, no more ‘choice’ bollocks: people with no money have no choice, and they never will. And please, no more partnerships with the private sector – that’s how the NHS got to its current state of deep debt. Scrapping University fees in favour of grants is a great idea, but where’s the money coming from? The most important factor has been overlooked here: higher standards to ensure that only the brightest go to University. Then everything else falls into place.
Our traditional values have been undermined. Children are taught to be ashamed of our past. Multiculturalism has split our society. Political correctness is stifling free speech. End the ban on smoking in allocated rooms in public houses, clubs and hotels. Hold County wide referenda on the hunting ban. Well, I’m ashamed of our past. I’m ashamed of how, before the Welfare State, the poor died young and their kids left school at 13. I’m even more ashamed of the fact that we are rapidly going back to where we were – although I’m not even remotely Left Wing. I agree on the smoking thing, although I think you’d lose. The Hunting Ban is a complex issue upon which we have already wasted far too much legislative time. It’s a mess, but not that important in the greater scheme of things.
Let me sum up here, if I may. I think UKip isn’t a radical forward-looking Party, I think it’s a place for people who want to undo and go backwards. I think that, far from being classless, it is a middle-class business Party. But above all, I think it is mainly peopled by folks who don’t like Wet Conservatives, and do like making money. That’s why Boris is licking them all over at the moment. That’s why Murdoch summoned Nigel Farage to his apartment some weeks ago. And that’s why, like a prat, Farage scuttled round there à toute vitesse.
Nigel isn’t a radical, and neither are his mates. And UKip isn’t going anywhere except into the Tory Party. I mean the Tory Party – not the one-nation Conservative Party as was. UKip is not a long-term answer to any of Britain’s real problems: it’s just another even bigger rear-view mirror, and we’ve already got four Parties using that thing. UKip is not a change-the-culture Party on social, economic, trade and financial bases: it’s a Party that drivels on about small government and more police and fewer bureaucrats and working 12-hour days and being a global power.
I suggested earlier that UKip is a bird with one wing, and that it will never fly. But as of last Thursday, the United Kingdom Independence Party is a slightly more powerful, albeit ageing, animal: it is in fact a Trojan Horse designed to get Nigel Farage a seat in the Cabinet, and a free hand for the business interests already working hard to install Borishunt-on-Fallongove. It is a multiply-flogged carthorse fit largely for the glue factory, but transformed by perfidious Establishment blindness into a growing force in our politics. It isn’t what we need, but I rather fear it is what we’re going to get.
If your response to this essay is “So what would you do smartarse?”, the answer is at this link….and has been for some time.