UKIP - Be careful what you wish for
Friday 10th May 2013 10:18 AM
Just over one week on from the local government elections held on May 2nd 2013, the airwaves are still full with endless commentary, reactions and analysis following the large number of council seats gained by the UK Independence Party (UKIP) and the implications of that party attracting some 24% of the votes that were cast. Nothing scares politicians more than the thought of losing their seats and since the majority of UKIP votes were gained at the expense of the Conservative Party it is interesting to see the backbiting and recriminations festering just below the surface in Tory gatherings. Factions within the Conservative Party are now trying to make an even louder noise than UKIP over issues such as immigration and the UK in the European Union.
Caught up in situations we cannot directly control we are always tempted to look for the apparently obvious solutions to our problems even though the difficulties may be complex. Such circumstances in the political context offer a ripe opportunity for irresponsible parties to offer cure-all remedies to the electorate even though their manifestos could not possibly inform a plausible working government. The Liberal Democrats fell into this trap with their approach to higher education. I did not like the idea of charging fees to students for their university education having benefited from free provision myself but I recognised the inevitability of such a measure in the context of half the young people of the country going into higher education and its consequent cost. As part of the coalition government, the Liberal Democrats have had to accept even higher tuition fees. As a result, there are very many disillusioned former Liberal Democrat voters - particularly in the university constituencies.
With UKIP we are in a different league with the promises of jam tomorrow and I wonder how many people who gave UKIP their vote realise just what that party really seeks to achieve. Let me repeat some examples from the UKIP 2010 election manifesto with my personal reactions.
Reduce the number of staff employed in public services by 2 million.
UKIP clearly feel we have far too many doctors, nurses, teachers and social workers and their loss would have no detrimental effect on the community.
Reduce income tax and phase out employers' national insurance contributions.
Why did I not think of this? Obviously we do not really need the NHS or well funded public services.
Abolish inheritance tax.
It is a fact that those countries which have no inheritance tax have the highest level of social inequality. Do we really aspire to be a country where the rich get richer without having to work and the poor end up trapped in squalor?
Increase defence expenditure by 40% to expand the army, build more warships, buy more planes and replace Trident.
I know that the first duty of any government is to defend and protect its citizens but the scale of this proposal is staggering. We might well need a bigger army given the social unrest that UKIPs policies would provoke, but doesn't this contradict the earlier pledge to cut public employees by two million? And do we really need to spend another £100 billion on replacing Trident? Who are we going to attack with nuclear weapons now that the Soviet Block has gone?
Undertake massive civil engineering projects to build nuclear power stations, flood defences, high speed and reopened railway lines and prisons.
Nice ideas, but we cannot afford investment on this scale even with UKIPs; back-of-an-envelope economic policies. They might create jobs, but those jobs have already been abolished by UKIP in their bid to reduce public servants by two million.
Introduce rigorous control of immigration with a criminal offence for those who overstay, forcibly repatriate illegal immigrants, incarcerate asylum seekers while their applications are heard, introduce visas and health insurance for all visitors to the UK and triple the size of the Borders Agency Staff.
This is the stuff of populist anti immigration rhetoric but it spells human misery on a grand scale and punitive vindictive measures being applied conversely to UK nationals wishing to travel and live abroad.
Double prison places and introduce boot camps for young offenders.
What a desperately pessimistic vision UKIP must have for our society under their leadership. Do these policies really make society safer, or are they simply universities of crime?
Establish elected County Health Boards to administer the NHS.
It must be evident to everyone except UKIP that what the NHS does not need is yet another costly reorganisation. To me this smacks of verbiage as a substitution for anything helpful to say and again contradicts their stated aim of reducing public servants by two million.
Introduce school vouchers for parents to buy education in either private or government funded schools.
What a present for the rich who will no longer need to pay any school fees! What a savage cut for other children as the money now spent on them will now have to spread further to cover the costs of the children now in private schools who are currently educated at no cost to the state. Bonkers!
Build new grammar schools and re-introduce pupil selection.
What is it about UKIP? The party that supposedly wants to protect the UK seems bent on reintroducing the former division and discrimination that was always so damaging economically and socially and which is totally discredited.
Reduce the number of students and universities and reinstate student grants.
At a stroke UKIP want to reserve university for a privileged few and pay them. If I were young again, why would I vote for a party that probably did not believe I merited higher education?
Freeze public sector pensions.
Gone is the commitment to honour the arrangements that contributors joined in good faith for a pension whose value is protected. This would make the Equitable Life fiasco look like a minor blip in the history of the pension industry.
It is not worth going on. We now learn that even senior UKIP members feel that their policies are not thought through and have advised buying in bespoke or off the shelf versions from right wing think tank organisations. UKIP, it would appear, has also provided a welcome bandwagon for some local election candidates with dubious backgrounds to carry their purple banner.
I suppose I can hope that the local elections were a blip with the voting disproportionally skewed because of the general apathy that surrounds these events. What I would ask is that those thinking of voting UKIP fully realise what the party really is about. Apart from its insularity towards Europe, (does anyone really believe that all our problems will be solved by leaving the EU?), and its ignorance of the way that immigration has shaped the history of the UK for centuries, it is a party that wants to savagely wind back the size and role of the state. I think it shares a sympathy with Tea Party Republicanism in the USA, a movement that seems to believe that the only role for government is to make and uphold laws and to provide defence. Small state government means that it is up to each individual to fend for him or herself and the structures that support a caring and just society (which cost money and need taxes) are not required. Heaven help the long term future for health, education, social care if UKIP ever gets near government. The clues are all there in their manifesto. We must not go like lemmings into a UKIP conceived future.