While the more excitable part of the Fourth Estate gets its undergarments inverted over Nigel “Thirsty” Farage and his fellow saloon bar propper-uppers at UKIP topping the poll for elections to the European Parliament (EP), none of the hacks and pundits seem to want to ask the obvious question: what does the party really stand for, apart from its hatred of the EU? What would it really change, if given power?
Squeaky policy finger up the bum time
The problem here is, as Alex Harrowell has observed, that UKIP has taken on so many of the anti-politics-as-usual crowd that it would be highly dangerous for Farage, or any of his pals, to dwell too long on policy for fear of teeing off one of the party’s factions and seeing the voters drift away. And, as Richard Murphy has noted, what we do know about UKIP policy does not add up.
A key example of the sleight of hand that Mr Thirsty is already having to employ in order to keep his foot soldiers facing the same way is over income tax. As recently as February this year, Murphy noted that UKIP was in favour of a flat tax system. This was effectively what was proposed in May 2012 by the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA) and Institute of Directors (IoD).
Then, the “2020 Tax Commission” called it a “Single Income Tax”. As I pointed out at the time (see HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE), this would mean the state being downsized to a level last seen in 1939, and that means there would be no NHS, and indeed, as Murphy pointed out in a Guardian CiF piece, very little of today’s welfare state, much of which was established by the 1945 Attlee Government.
But, as Harrowell has pointed out, since 2010, when UKIP proposed a flat tax, not only has the TPA let slip the consequences – no NHS unless you pony up for it separately, for starters – but also UKIP has gained a large number of new followers, typified by its east London misinformation specialist Roger da Costa, for whom the NHS is sacrosanct. So a change was in order.
And, as Isabel Hardman at the Spectator noted, Farage duly signalled this on one of his many Question Time appearances. Perhaps her fellow Speccy contributor James “saviour of Western civilisation” Delingpole, a faithful Kipper of the party’s libertarian strand, noticed this. Most likely he didn’t bother. But this distinction between the various UKIP factions is critical in understanding the beast.
And Farage knows this: we’re not going to be told what UKIP is for until very close to the next General Election. What he must hope is that the press keep asking the other parties what they are for, but not UKIP. And far too many within the Fourth Estate have already failed on that count. That’s not good enough. The question has to be asked, again and again until answers are prised out of Mr Thirsty.
What is UKIP for? What would it do, other than photo opportunities down the pub?