Much of the recent debate on an EU exit strikes at the heart of the Ukip agenda and Lord Lawson has just switched sides and wants to leave. Ukip are not just concerned with this exit although many may have voted for them on this issue alone. David Cameron may well have decided that silence was the best policy following his comment in November last year that Ukip were a bunch of "fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists". This week he had to eat his words but really he shouldn’t have attacked their politicians as inadvertently he was criticising the people who vote for the party. He should have criticised policy.
I am concerned by UKIP’s policies in general. There must be some policies that I agree with (and there are) because UKIP buys them off the populist shelves. However I’ll give one example as to why this is not always a good idea. The residents of California were asked about their priorities for health care and they thought that reconstructive cosmetic surgery was more important than hip replacements.
Taxation is another area that causes me concern. UKIP hasn’t completely sorted out their tax proposals but they do want a flat rate which is bound to help the rich. They do want a slightly higher tax threshold than that which is proposed by the Liberal Democrats but if you want to help the rich then a flat rate would do it. If you do help the rich then the poor get less. Moreover the trouble with picking and choosing populist policies is that they are not costed. I am always pleased to read at each election that the Liberal Democrat manifesto is costed as well as verified independently.
Nigel Farage wants an “amicable divorce” from Europe. I am sure that the divorce settlement would not be good for Britain. Why should the rest of Europe allow it to be? We can’t compare ourselves with much richer nations like Norway and a divorce would convince multinational companies to side with the rest of Europe.
Ukip has attracted a great deal of criticism from within its own party. In 1993 the first leader, Alan Sked said that the party had become “extraordinarily right wing”. You can Google his many criticisms. UKIP has banned BNP members and describes itself as a non-racist party but why would it need to explicitly make these claims unless it already attracted such people? BNP members in Scotland broke away to join the British Freedom Party and they were invited to join UKIP by Christopher Monckton, UKIP’s leader in Scotland. There are phrases like “Multiculturalism has split our society” which appear in the UKIP manifesto and this causes me great concern. UKIP’s “Pocket Guide to Immigration” promised to “end support for multiculturalism and promote one, common British culture”. I am sure that this moves us in a difficult and dangerous direction.
UKIP has had more than its fair share of members with extreme views but it is also worth taking a look at the friends that UKIP keeps. It is part of the group called Europe of Freedom and Democracy (EFD). This includes Italy’s Lega Nord and other far right parties. Nigel Farage has even felt the need to suggest withdrawing from the EFD but hasn’t despite further affirmations of extreme views, and one UKIP MEP was expelled for refusing to take part in the EFD.
We need Europe for many reasons and when it comes to issues like the environment and immigration there are huge differences between Liberal Democrats and UKIP. However the Liberal Democrats and UKIP both support voting reforms. It’s always nice to finish a blog on a positive note, but I won't. If Nigel Farage is willing to do a pre-election deal with the Conservatives, as long as David Cameron is not leading them, then this shows contempt for the electorate. Ukip has just gained 25% of the vote and they have taken votes from Labour too. It now looks like they are saying they are just the same as anti-EU Tories. You don't treat voters like that.
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