At long last, after months in a vacuum after its last set of policies was removed from the Internet as a risk to the party’s popularity, UKIP has unveiled the new plans that will take it to the next general election.
They are a cautious mix. Many are continuations of Coalition policies, while the rest aim to throw out the least popular moves of the last four years.
So the Tory-motivated Bedroom Tax is out, but child benefit would be confined to two children (as Conservatives desire). People who have been employed for a long time and have paid their taxes would receive higher Jobseekers’ Allowance, which is a proposal that Labour has been considering.
Losers would be new migrants into the UK (quelle surprise) who would not be eligible for any benefits at all until they had been paying tax and national insurance for five years – and “people who have made a living out of having children so that they can get more benefits and a bigger house”. This last group has attracted considerable animosity from large swathes of the public for decades but, although it is not mythical, it may be very hard to pin down those who belong to it as the definition depends on intention. What about people who had a larger family because they were in good jobs, which then fell apart?
It seems pensioners would also lose out as, despite having examined the issue of public sector pensions, UKIP’s policy unit “ran away” from it. There will be no relief from the Conservative-led attack on pensioners and the increase in the retirement age will remain, if UKIP ever formed a government.
UKIP’s tax policies have undergone a major overhaul, in recognition of the calamitously regressive decision to ask lower-earners to agree to a huge tax rise in order to subsidise a cut for the massively rich. The flat-rate 31 per cent income tax idea is in the dustbin.
Instead, UKIP has decided to copy the Coalition and follow George W Bush’s ‘Starve The Beast’ policy. That’s right – they want more tax cuts for the super-rich, while the lowest earners including those on the minimum wage would be taken out of tax altogether. The new top tax rate would be 40p in the pound (from 45p at the moment) and earners would have to be making £45,000 a year to pay it (up from £41,865 at the moment).
This means the Treasury would receive far less revenue than it does even today, necessitating spending cuts (as it did in Dubya’s USA and as it has here, although the Tories have cannily failed to admit it). In line with its historically jingoistic stance, UKIP would abolish aid to foreign countries, removing a need for less than one per cent of current UK budgets (gosh).
More seriously, UKIP would abolish the Climate Change Act, whose commitment to environmentally-friendly energy is allegedly costing the country £18 billion every year. Apparently it is more desirable to choke on the fumes from fossil fuels in UKIP’s book.
Another sinister claim comes from Tim Aker, head of UKIP’s policy unit: “There are elements of BIS [Business, Innovation and Skills] that we are looking into.” How he proposes to shrink this department, and what it may mean for the economy, are anybody’s guess.
UKIP also has a plan to introduce a “direct democracy” mechanism allowing the public to organise petitions which, if successful, could result in national referendums. Anyone who has used the current government e-petition system will be wary of this. Successful e-petitions have led to debates in Parliament – which have resulted in no action whatever. That system is a public relations exercise and a waste of time; it seems unlikely that UKIP’s proposal will be any different.
All in all, this is a good manifesto for a party considering Coalition with the Conservatives.
However, with UKIP registering only around 12 per cent in polls for the general election, it is likely that the party’s best result will be a gain of only between three and six seats.
If UKIP really wants to be the “people’s army” its campaigners suggested during the European elections, it will have to come much closer to what the people want.
Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike
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