You don’t have to have real political power in Britain to shift the terms of the debate. Just look at UKIP. Despite the fact that the party is expected to do well in this year’s European Elections, it is unlikely that this will translate into anything meaningful come next year’s General Election – although don’t bet against Nigel Farage overturning Laura Sandys’ majority in South Thanet.
And yet despite this, the Tories and to a lesser extent Labour appear to be running scared of the eurosceptic party – each week both seem to unveil new ‘tough’ announcements on UKIP pet issues such as immigration and welfare.
However while having a risible influence on the mainstream, UKIP’s distance from any real political power allows the party to retain its radicalism (not actually radical at all, but rather reactionary) which those closer to the summit of power are forced to abandon (remember when Lib Dem conference used to vote to hammer the rich and unilaterally disarm?)
Behind Nigel Farage’s charisma, however, the madness remains. Farage may come across like the mildly amiable chap from everybody’s local, but he leads a party which, from a policy perspective, is completely off the scale.
UKIP aren’t simply ‘anti-politics’, but they actually stand for things, such as:
Charging NHS patients to jump waiting lists
Back in July, UKIP’s ‘health spokesperson’ John Stanley penned an article in which he argued that people requiring urgent NHS treatment should be seen within two hours – a reasonable enough proposition. However he added that those requiring non-urgent treatment should be given the option of paying so as to jump the queue ahead of those who cannot afford to:
“We should accept that if a triaging clinician feels we don’t need treating within two hours required for standard cases then we be either willing to pay or willing to wait longer so cases most deserving are treated best. People should pay a higher charge if they haven’t registered with a GP as being directed back to primary care avoids unnecessary A&E visits.”
Stanley also endorsed GPs charging to see patients and said that, under UKIP, people who qualified for free prescriptions would be exempt from the flat fee – but only if they had not been drinking.
Banning all teaching of climate change
UKIP would ban the teaching of climate change in schools were it to win the 2015 General Election, according to the party’s education spokesperson. This, despite the fact that there is a 97 per cent consensus among climate scientists supporting global warming and the fact that human emissions are behind it.
Climate ‘sceptics’ don’t publish many scientific papers (I wonder why), and UKIP doesn’t want children to know about the vast majority of papers which overwhelmingly support the idea of man-made climate change.
Last week UKIP Education spokesman MEP Derek Clark told Index on Censorship:
“We will still ban Al Gore’s video for use in schools if I’ve got anything to do with it. I will not have much opposition within the party. It is, of course, not just this video which needs banning; all teaching of global warming being caused in any way by carbon dioxide emissions must also be banned. It just is not happening.”
The party has the laziest MEPs in Europe
UKIP’s attendance record in the European Parliament is worse than that of their counterparts from the three major parties. Happy to sign-in and collect their allowances (beer money), UKIP’s nine MEPs missed around a third of the votes in the European Parliament between 2009 and October 2013.
The complete abolition of inheritance tax
Just 2.6 per cent of those who die every year pay inheritance tax. The average taxpaying estate is worth £875,000, according to HMRC. Inheritance tax raises £2.9bn a year for the Treasury from some of the wealthiest people in the country, while estates worth less than £325,000 don’t pay a penny.
And yet UKIP wants to abolish it completely.
At a time of rising inequality, redistributive policies such as inheritance tax are a symbolic bulwark against US-levels of inequality. In this respect, UKIP policy panders to the 2.6 per cent of the population who have some of the biggest estates in Britain. Play the world’s smallest violin.
Has friends on the European far-right
UKIP is part of the Europe of Freedom and Democracy group in the European Parliament (EFD). The EFD is comprised of 10 parties and one independent MEP. These include the anti-immigrant Movement for France, the ultra-nationalist Slovak National Party and True Finns.
The leader of the Slovak National Party has said the best policy for dealing with the Roma is “a long whip in a small yard”. In December 2011, an opinion poll of True Finn voters revealed that 51 per cent agreed with the statement: “People of certain races are unsuited for life in a modern society”.
Apparently this is ok with UKIP, though. In fact, anyone objecting to such alliances is liable to face severe repercussions. In 2010, UKIP expelled MEP Nikki Sinclaire after she objected to working with “extreme views” of UKIP’s political allies.