I’ve criticised UKIP in the past for basically being a single issue party of amateurs. However, two things have changed since the last time I heckled UKIP – I have become a staunch EU-sceptic and I have been to the UKIP party conference today.
UKIP are still effectively a single-issue party. Their main objective is – and probably always will be – leaving the EU. This is all well and good but what do they do if they get into power and leave the EU? What are their policies on education, health, law and order, etc.?
UKIP have just announced a new policy on taxation. They propose a £9k tax-free allowance and a flat 33% tax rate. I doubt the sums add up anyway but this is dangerously similar to the Lib Dems policy of hammering high earners with high taxes and that has been one of the main barriers to Lib Dem support in England where, by rights, they should be mopping up middle-England Labour supporters who have become disaffected with Chairman Bliar.
So, they now have two policies which isn’t really a lot for a serious political party although to be fair that’s two more than David Cameron currently has. 😉
Going to the conference today actually quite impressed me. I went to meet Jim Kelly, their regions expert, to talk about the West Midlands NO! campaign and see what UKIP were planning to do about opposing the regions. The Tory MP’s I have heard from so far have all said they oppose the regions but basically, “what can we do unless we’re in power?” which is a bit disappointing coming from Her Majesty’s Opposition. I found out some very useful information about the regions and Jim Kelly certainly knew his subject inside out. When I asked him what UKIP were doing about the regions he umm’d and aah’d a bit and said “to be honest, not enough” and then called over Mike Natrass, the UKIP MEP for the West Midlands.
The two of them had a chat and decided that it was about time they did something about the regions, nominated someone to come up with some policies (in his absence, poor bloke :o)) and that was it, the decision was made – UKIP are going to start properly opposing regional government. It was this willingness to listen to a member of the public, someone they knew nothing about and then make a decision there and then without going through endless spin doctors and PR groups that impressed me. That and the fact that they were quite happy to admit that they weren’t giving enough attention to an issue instead of trying to blag me or fob me off.
I suppose there are two opinions that could be drawn from this and I think both are probably valid to some extent. The one way to look at it could be that UKIP are a dynamic party that is keen to change and adapt to be relevant and shuns spin doctors and PR guru’s so that decisions can be made quickly and efficiently. Alternatively, it could be that individuals are going off and doing their own thing and that the party suffers from weak leadership and discipline and are so devoid of policies that they will take anything on as long as it’s broadly relevant. I think it’s more the former than the latter but without being on the inside, it’s impossible to tell.
Anyway, I’ve come away with a greatly improved opinion of UKIP. Whether they can make that jump from single-issue campaign group to serious political party remains to be seen but if they can replicate the action I saw in two hours today for other issues then who knows, they could cause an upset at the next general election. They don’t have delusions of grandeur – they know their weaknesses and they admit them. There was also a distinct lack of security around the place, quite a contrast to the vanity of the Labour and Conservative conferences where nobody was allowed near the building without having police checks and being searched – I just walked in through the front doors and nobody batted an eyelid. I didn’t even have a ticket!
Mike Natrass also invited Mrs Sane and I to go to Strasbourg next year courtesy of the European Federation. When I told Mr Sane I was gobsmacked when she said she’d go rather than her usual response to anything I mention that is remotely political which is generally along the lines of “God, you’re always talking about politics; talk about something else”. Maybe I’m wearing her resistance down at last.
I still don’t like party politics but if I were to nail my colours to the mast I think they would be yellow and purple. A few weeks ago I would have plumped for the Tories but the more I think about Cameron and the things he says, the more I see the Conservatives turning into a New Labour clone and I don’t like where they’re going. Labour re-invented itself in 1997 and the Tories are trying to do the same thing but that’s not what the Conservative Party is about – it’s about tradition, respecting our culture and heritage and not re-inventing itself endlessly to appear to be all things to all men. I don’t like it. The big problem with UKIP for me is that they oppose an English Parliament as the solution to the West Lothian Question believing it to playing into the EU’s hands by breaking up the UK. Still, who knows what the future will bring – they have a new leader that nobody knows much about, perhaps their policy will change?