April 17, 2015 by Paul Goldsmith
What I have liked about UKIP’s contribution to British politics over the past few years has been the effect that they have had on the other parties. They have taken areas of our national life that were effectively banned from debate and made us debate them. How else would you get from Gordon Brown calling someone raising immigration on the 2010 campaign trail a ‘bigot’ to a mug being sold by the same Labour Party with the words “controls on immigration” in this election. Yes, some will say that UKIP have lowered the level of debate, and have increased the blame all our ills on immigrants as well as the EU, but the point is that we have been able to debate these things at last. I for one happen to think they are wrong, but I for one would die for their right to speak. It was with this in mind that I read the UKIP election manifesto.
On the one hand, I wasn’t surprised by anything that was in it. I know that they want to pull out of the EU. I know that they want to limit immigration, stopping it for 5 years for unskilled immigrants then using an Australian-style points system to limit net migration of skilled migrants to about 50,000? I know that they want to give the NHS an extra £3 billion a year. I know that they believe in old-fashioned education. I know they want to scrap HS2, the bedroom tax and hospital parking charges. I know that they want to exceed the 2% of GDP defence budget commitment. But it was nice to get some meat on the bones of these policies.
For instance, I didn’t know that they are of the opinion that a fair question for an IN/OUT referendum on the EU would not be “Should we leave the EU?” but “Do you want the UK to be a free, sovereign and independent country?”. I didn’t know that they would fund increases in social care by relying on the proceeds of fracking. I didn’t know that St George’s day would become an official Bank Holiday (yes, about ten days before the next one), and that smoking would be allowed again in pubs. I didn’t know that they would guarantee a job for every ex-serviceman who served for 12 years or more. I also didn’t know that they planned to rebate the university tuition fees to anyone studying STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Manufacturing and Medicine) at university who then goes on to work for 5 years in the UK afterwards.
The key pages in the manifesto, and the ones that really show what UKIP are relying upon to make it all add up, are pages 74 and 75. These are where the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) have independently audited their spending commitments, and, more importantly, the methods by which they will raise the funds for those extra spending commitments.
Positive though I have been on UKIP’s effect on UK politics, I do have a problem with them being able to stand up in the debates and make policies that rely on the counter-factual. What I mean by this is that their figures don’t work unless we pull out of the EU. Given they are saying they would want an open and balanced debate (and media coverage), it is not definite that will happen (even in the unlikely event their ridiculous referendum question is allowed by the Electoral Commission, which, interestingly, they are committing to ‘reform’).
So, with spending commitments of £31.84 billion to fund many of the policies listed above, plus a change to the income tax system where they will have a new 30% rate for incomes from £43,500 to £55,000 and back to 40% for incomes above £55,0000, as well as abolishing inheritance tax completely, they are relying on the following ways to raise money.
ASSUMING the UK leave the EU, that’s £9.5 billion. Reducing international aid back to 0.2% of GDP would save £11bn. They would abolish certain departments as well as subsidies related to climate change to save £1bn. Replacing the Barnett formula that funds Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland with a needs based spending allocation would save £5.2bn (and good luck getting that past the Scots!). There is some money brought back from that given to ‘fake charities’. Then there is money claimed off medical insurance for the medical treatment on the NHS of foreigners and visitors. My point is that almost all of these sources of funding may not be possible, and rely on UKIP hoping that people vote on, or agree to some things they may not want to.
Like the Green Party manifesto, the UKIP manifesto is one written by a party that knows it will not actually be in power soon. Like the Green Party manifesto, the UKIP manifesto presents the vision of a country and values that are different from what many people imagine they live by. Like the Green Party manifesto, the UKIP manifesto should be read with an open mind. They are contributing to the national debate, and that can only be a good thing. Right?
p.s. Worth watching the reaction of UKIP supporters when it was pointed out by a Telegraph journalist that the only black face in the entire manifesto was on the page about international aid