Monday, May 20, 2013

The best and worst of UKIP

I am delighted to see the continued rise of UKIP because it’s really rattling the established parties.   The big parties are so poor at the moment that the old joke “Don’t Vote – The Government Will Get In” keeps coming to mind (and the Worst government policy 2012).

What’s interesting this year is that UKIP has ceased to be just a home for Eurosceptics.  According to YouGov its anti-immigration stance is more attractive to supporters (76%) than its EU withdrawal message (59%).

UKIP has no chance of getting its hands on any levers of power, but it’s clearly going to be disruptive force in British politics for a while.  So it’s a good time to consider its wider policy agenda.

The BBC has published this guide to UKIP policies.  There are lots of things I would agree with but it’s more of a right wing “wish list” than a realistic policy platform.  Saying they’d like to double prison places and set a flat rate of tax signal their appeal to a certain sort of voter but have that other-worldly, we’ll-never-get-in-anyway feel that you get with minor parties.

But to be fair to UKIP, it’s really noticeable going down the list how many policies are unique to them and fly in the face of the combined big party consensus.  For instance, no one else is speaking out against the madcap energy policies that Labour and now the Coalition are pursuing.

I am particularly heartened to see that UKIP oppose HS2, the multi-squillion pound high speed railway project. 

If you speak to most people about HS2 they are really sceptical – about the build costs, the alleged benefits, the time to delivery, fare affordability and simply whether the government is being honest about the case it is trying to push through.   Unsurprising when you consider what happened with the much less ambitious HS1, a 68 mile line between London and Folkestone.  Passenger numbers have been 1/3 of what was predicted and the consequent revenue shortfall has left the taxpayer on the hook for £10bn!  People can wearily see HS2 going down the same track (sorry for the pun) but at much greater cost because it’s five times as long. 

So hats off to UKIP for at least trying to slow down the public sector money-wasting machine.

I am less impressed by their immigration policy which is under review but is currently a commitment to freeze immigration for 5 years.  That’s frankly ridiculous.  London is the UK’s biggest success story in recent decades and a relaxed policy to immigration has been a key component.  To think Britain can thrive while locking its doors to the rest of the world is very misguided.  To give an example of the harm this policy would do, we would become a much less attractive to multinational companies and high net worth individuals who come here to spend money, invest and start businesses.

That’s not to say there isn’t a problem – uncontrolled mass immigration of the kind Labour and the EU have foisted upon the UK has caused all sorts of legitimate concerns about crime, jobs and strain on public services. 

But the right way to go about it is leave the door open to immigration while simultaneously tightening the requirements for staying in the country: anyone not working for an extended period or who breaks the law should lose their right to stay.  

UKIP and the Coalition are at least making the right noises about immigrants having to pay tax for several years before having access to benefits and public housing.  As UKIP recognise, doing anything meaningful on immigration will require Eu withdrawal (EU's migrant rules prove the Referendum case).

All in all UKIP is a welcome breath of fresh aware and deserves to harvest the right of centre protest vote, but risks looking old-fashioned and intolerant without some more nuanced thinking on one of its flagship policies.

From our website:  Taxation of Spanish Rental Properties

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