Wednesday 28 January 2015

100 reasons to ignore Ukip

Back in May, and many times since, I have remarked that "Ukip has nothing of any great substance, and even though we are promised a manifesto, I expect it will be the same rag-bag of parish suggestions box entries picked out of a tombola with no unifying theme."

And as if on cue, we get 100 reasons to vote Ukip in the absence of actual policies. Mystic North strikes again! I'm not going to rubbish all of them since some of these random scattergun statements are desirable outcomes or policy instruments, but without context, they mean nothing. Let's have a look at them shall we?

1. Get Britain out of the European Union

On this we are agreed. But this isn't a policy. This is an ambition. As we have discovered, it ain't simple, it ain't quick and it will need an alternative. There are no magic wands and if you think it's a simple process, you simply don't understand what the EU is. Here I remind readers that Ukip does not have a Brexit policy.   

2. Get control of immigration with an Australian-style, points-based immigration system

State bureaucrats second guessing the human resources needs of UK plc. What could possibly go wrong? Never mind that quota based systems can result in a net increase in immigration and that there is no evidence it could work for Britain since we are an entirely unique nation with entirely different geography. Ukip has failed to explain why their idea, plucked out of the air, would work, when successive administrations have failed in light of the complexities, costs and international treaty obligations. And in any case, we already have a points based system - and have since 2008. 

3. £3bn more, annually, into our NHS which desperately needs it

From where exactly? And who says the NHS actually needs it? Could it just be that the pressure could be taken off the NHS by fixing the GP system and adult social care? Maybe, we don't know, because Ukip hasn't done any thinking on this. This link is where a Ukip policy should be looking.

4. Scrap tuition fees for students studying Science, Tech, Engineering, Maths, or Medical degrees

Sounds good in principle. But who is going to pay? Are we looking at tax funded university or are we looking at tax breaks for industry to finance them? Is it tied in with a broader industrial strategy? If so, what would that look like? And what about the creative arts? Multimedia technology might sound like a non-degree, but the games industry is not one we can afford to ignore.   

5. Pay greater attention to elderly care across the country

Is this a policy or a sneeze?

6. Cutting £9bn from our foreign aid budget

And what then do we fund overseas projects with, some of which are essential to slowing and managing immigration. It has been clear throughout that Ukip doesn't understand what aid is or what it is even for

7. Give the people the ability to “recall” their MPs, without parliamentary or MP approval

This is one of Dougie Carswell's ideas which failed to pass while he was a Tory and given the state of voter engagement there is actually very little evidence this would be used often, if at all. It's easy to fill a online petition with a few thousand signatures, but less easy to do it in a constituency. This really shows us just how shallow Ukip and Carswell are. We do have a big problem with our democratic deficit. It will require a range of integrated measures to tackle and this is just tinkering around the edges with bits of parliamentary procedure. Democratic reform ought to be a central pillar of a supposedly anti-establishment party - but it curiously is not. 

8. Stopping our endless, foreign wars

You mean the ones that recently ended? How about a democratic mechanism to stop us getting sucked into them? No?

9. Promoting a British identity, as opposed to failed multiculturalism

How? And what does this achieve? And what is a British identity? How are you defining it?

10. Allowing existing schools to become grammar schools

And what do we do with the schools that don't?

11. Ending PFI privatisation of the NHS, proliferated by Labour and the Tories

Ok, so we're ripping up contracts now. What do we replace it with? In some places, it works.

12. Ensuring our armed services are properly equipped for when we do need them

Every government and every party has said that. What matters is the detail. As we outline here, that's not so easy. 

13. Establishing a Veteran’s Administration to look after those who looked after us

Like the well funded and competent SAAFA?

14. Encouraging inward investment with growth markets, not JUST the failing Eurozone

How? This is a sentiment, not a policy.

15. Overcoming the unfairness of MPs from devolved nations voting on English laws

How? Got a policy?

16. Cutting bureaucracy, red tape, and wasteful spending from government departments

Which bureaucracy, which red tape, what wasteful spending? Easy to say, harder to do.

17. Cutting the same bureaucracy that hinders small businesses and entrepreneurs

What like?
18. Supporting our farmers with a Single Farm Payment Scheme

How would that differ from the one which already exists and is presently in use?

19. Ending the burdensome “green levies” that have added £000s to our energy bills

My energy bill doesn't exceed £1000. And some of those green levies go toward better insulation which means we don't have to build a new power station. So which "green levies" are we talking about?

20. Scrapping the poorly planned HS2 project, saving up to £50bn

How is NOT spending money a saving?  As in, I've decided not to buy a £250,000 Rolls Royce, so I've "saved" £250,000 ... ? But do what instead to ease pressure on existing transport infrastructure?

21. Opposing tolls on public roads – we’ve already paid for them

Oppose who? Presumably, you'd be in government, so who would you oppose? Who is suggesting road tolls? Why is a digital tolling scheme necessarily worse than the road tax scheme we presently have? Variable peak prices could reduce congestion.

22. Supporting bus passes for pensioners with the support of local authorities

This already happens. Presumably Ukip wants to expand that. How is that paid for?

23. Foreign vehicles to require Britdisc passes to contribute to our roads they use

Won't that make imported goods more expensive?

24. Ending the use of speed cameras as revenue raisers – they should be a deterrent

They are. Most of them are now switched off because they cost too much to run and administrate. The rest of them serve as part of active traffic management systems. This might have been a popular policy in 1992, but this is not 1992.  

25. Protecting our green belt

What with? A home defence force? Or are we talking abut planning? If so, what is Ukip's planning policy and how does it propose to solve the housing shortage and affordability gap? Y'need a policy!

26. A central list of brownfield sites for developers

Like the one that already exists? And why should it be central? I thought Ukip favoured localism?

27. Houses on brownfield sites to be Stamp Duty exempt on first sale

There's usually a good reason why brownfield sites remain inactive. Often ground contamination from previous use. It will take a lot more than stamp duty exemption. It will require a complete overhaul of the environmental impact assessment laws.

28. VAT relaxed for redevelopment of brownfield sites

See above. - and new build is already VAT exempt. Not forgetting that VAT is an EU tax and so we would be perfectly at liberty to abolish VAT if we wanted to.

29. Local referenda for large-scale development, if triggered by 5% of electorate

I am all in favour of more direct democracy, but this seems divorced from any context. It ought to be a part of a broader package of democratic reforms, but it's just hanging there, apropos of nothing. Where's the policy?

30. Introducing the ability for citizens to initiate national referenda

This is the closest Ukip gets to a big idea. But there needs to be safeguards against minority interest self-selection and mob rule. Referendums are not necessarily always an expression of public will. We will need to see details from Ukip. Which have not been forthcoming on this, or anything else.

31. Withdrawing from the European Court of Human Rights

And replace with what? Human rights are good. Fair trials and free speech and such.

32. Reversing the government’s opt-in to the European Arrest Warrant

What's the point if Ukip wants to scrap the EAW?

33. Negotiating bi-lateral agreements to replace EAW

Easier said than done, I find.

34. No votes for prisoners

So we deprive them of liberty of as a punishment, but deprive them of a voice? I guess this is a matter of personal taste.

35. Full prison sentences should be served, parole on case-by-case basis

That is actually a logical inversion. What is the point of case-by-case parole if full prison sentences are to be served?

36. Replacing the Human Rights Act with a British Bill of Rights

And what would be on that bill of rights? Who would write it?

37. Official documents to be published primarily in English

Like they are now? 

38. Cracking down on honour killings, female genital mutilation, and forced marriages

I wasn't aware the police were going easy on honour killings. They tend to be quick off the mark on murder. Does Ukip have evidence to the contrary? If so, that's a very serious allegation and ought to be a central campaign issue. As to forced marriages, that is largely something an aspect of immigration with Asians returning to their place of origin to get married. What is Ukip's immigration policy, beyond vague aspirations that is? 

39. Reviewing the BBC license fee with a view to reducing it

To what? Why is Ukip different fro the Tories on this?

40. Taking non-payment of the license fee out of the criminal sphere

You mean make it a civil debt so people then end up with a CCJ and unable to borrow, and have bailiffs banging at their door instead? Doesn't sound like progress to me. Have another think. 

41. Amend the smoking ban to promote choice for ventilated smoking rooms

Oh honestly, who cares anymore? Any pub that was going under because of the smoking ban has done already. Pubs are nicer without smoker. I say that as a smoker. It's not a big deal. 

42. Opposing plain packs for cigarettes, which has had no impact where trialled

Well, it took to number 42 before we got to any hint of sense, but it's hardly earth shattering.

43. Promoting the employment of young, British workers

How? That's a vague ambition, not a policy.

44. Repealing the Agency Workers Directive

And replace it with what? This is an interesting one. One must first examine why the directive exists. It is a regulatory response to a long standing problem of rolling six month contracts, largely as a product of previous labour market interventions. AWD is merely another hammer-blow in a game of regulatory whack-a-mole. Ukip clearly doesn't recognise this otherwise it would have offered a more substantial policy that gets to the root of the issue.

45. Encouraging councils to provide more free parking on High Streets

I'll let Jackart in his inimitable style address this one. It's a stupid policy by stupid people who aren't interested in policy. And it will take more than that to revive the high street.Does Ukip have a policy on that?

46. Simplifying planning regulations for long-term empty commercial properties

Why not just devolve planning policy to councils? You're all about localism, aren't you?

47. Extending the right of appeal for micro businesses against Revenue and Customs

In what circumstances? Apropos of what?

48. Negotiating bespoke trade agreements with EU member states and worldwide

Erm, see the thing about the EU is we can't negotiate with individual EU member states. The EU doesn't work like that. That's why eurosecptics want to leave it! That's where it would help to have a Brexit policy! But Ukipists told us they didn't need one! Doh! Here we have an anti-EU party that doesn't EVEN know how the EU works. What are we paying Ukip MEPs for?

49. Reoccupying our seat at the World Trade Organisation

Well that's kinda implied by way of leaving the EU. That's why eurosceptics want to leave.What do we do when we get there?

50. Abolishing inheritance tax

Fine fair enough. But that's £4bn you'll have to cut when you just said you'll spend 3bn extra on the NHS.

51. Introducing a 35p income tax rate between £42,285 and £55,000 – taking many public sector workers out of top rate of tax

Is this costed? That's going to mean some major cuts. What are you cutting? The foreign aid budget can only be spent once over.

52. Setting up a Treasury Commission to make sure big corporations pay their way in taxes

Here is some pretty typical Ukip ignorance. Many of these corporations are not based in the UK. They use freedom of capital rules to evade taxes. This is an international problem that requires an international solution, not least as part of a Brexit policy. Ukip doesn't have one.  

53. Abolishing the Dept of Energy and Climate Change and rolling retained functions into DEFRA

So we'd then have a mega-ministry that looks after power stations and cattle and rivers. Why? Where is the logic?

54. Introducing an Apprenticeship Qualification for students who don’t want to do non-core GCSEs

What does Ukip think core GCSEs are? And how will an apprentice fare without them?

55. Scrapping the arbitrary 50% target for university attendance

This is one of Tony Blair's most damaging policies. That's why the Tories got rid of it almost immediately. Which tells us this entire list of "policies" is a cut and paste from obsolete material. Did Ukip even read their 100 reasons before publishing them?

56. Students from the EU to pay the same as International Students

Who said they don't? And isn't itimplied that by leaving the EU, all students would be categorised as international students?

57. Introducing more power for parents: OFSTED to investigate schools on petition signed by 25% of parents or governors

Governors can already demand an inspection.Parents only need petition governors.

58. Guaranteeing a job in the police, prison, or border forces for anyone who has served 12 years in the Armed Forces

So if you've done 12 years in the logistic corps, you get to be a policeman? No thanks.

59. Priority social housing for ex-service men and women, and those returning from service

They already get a very generous resettlement grant and tuition fee subsidy.

60. Veterans to receives Veteran’s Card to ensure they’re supported in event of mental health care and more

In the event of mental health care? The biggest problem is veterans not seeking help. That is why they end up homeless.You need a comprehensive veteran care policy. Where is it?

61. All entitlements to be extended to servicemen and women recruited from overseas

Stupid and mega stupid.  The whole point of separate arrangements is to encourage serving officers to return to their nation of origin, with a service pension as a means of international development. There are clear developmental advantages to remittances, but a retired officer class is an export of an administrative class that can help build good governance - and is a means of exporting our values. This is precisely what the Gurkhas were for, and extending entitlements to all means we now have to allow them residence along their families as well. Not very sensible for a party that wants to control immigration.

62. Establishing a National Service Medal for all those who have served

So if you've done 12 years in the catering corps, you get a medal?This cheapens the very idea of medals. They are given out for distinguished service. What is the point of this policy?

63. Encouraging local authorities to buy out their PFI contracts where affordable

Paid for with what? You're massively cutting income tax, remember?

64. Ensuring GP’s surgeries are open at least one evening per week where demand permits

That's one of the few things I'm not inclined to argue with. But there are contractual problems that means the GP service requires a complete redesign. Where is Ukip's policy? Why does Ukip assume it can succeed in reforming it? Ukips health spokesperson, Louise Bours, admits "Honestly, I have no experience in health whatsoever".

65. Ensuring migrants have NHS-approved health insurance until they have paid into the system for 5 years

So the NHS will need a whole new bureaucracy to approve all international health insurance products and a recovery department to chase international debts. This presumably means more delays and checks at ports. I don't think they've thought this through.

66. Ending hospital car parking charges

Will likely result in less parking availability. It usually does.

67. Replacing bureaucratic watchdogs with locally elected health boards for more transparency

Can anybody honestly say that elected police commissioners have improved policing? Given the turnout at the recent PCC election in South Yorkshire, it is clear there is little public support for what are essentially overpaid press officers. Elections do not automatically equate with greater accountability or democracy.

68. Stopping the sale of patient data to big business

So Ukip opposes the sale of data from which extrapolations can be made which could improve drugs and patient care. They neglect to say why. There is a need to safeguard privacy, but we don't want to miss out on the possible benefits of big data insights. You can complain about the shoddy way the government set about it with automatic opt-ins but let's not throw the baby out with the bath water.

69. Ensuring a high standard of English speakers in the NHS

Who says they don't, apart from bigoted Ukipists?

70. Amend working time rules to give trainee doctors, surgeons, and medics better environments

Amend to what? Got a policy?

71. Encouraging and protecting whistle-blowing to get to the bottom of poor performance

This is not an unfair thing to say, but poor service delivery is a recurrent theme in British news with the same systemic common defects. Our corporate scale councils and local services are losing touch, are unaccountable and out of control. It will take more than whistle blowers to fix it. You'd need a comprehensive policy based on a detailed and evidence driven analysis. Something Ukip lacks the talent and mental architecture for.

72. Ensuring migrants have jobs and accommodation before they can come to the UK

Not unreasonable. But how will this be enforced? And what will it cost to enforce it? Got a policy?

73. Migrants will only be eligible for residency after 10 years’ working here

Migrants or asylum seekers? If migrants, what is the rationale for keeping them in limbo? Either they qualify for citizenship or they don't. Does Ukip even know the difference?

74. Reinstating the primary purpose rule, bringing an end to sham marriage migration

The primary purpose rule barred entry into the UK for thousands of people married to British citizens. It was dropped. The then Home Secretary, Jack Straw, said it was being ended because "it is arbitrary, unfair and ineffective and has penalised genuine cases, divided families and unnecessarily increased the administrative burden on the immigration system." He was right then, and he's right now.

75. No amnesty for illegal immigrants, or those gaining UK passports via fraud

Amnesties are generally a bad thing. They encourage people to try their luck and disappear into the woodwork until there is one. But we do need a policy to deal specifically with illegal immigrants. Thus far, Ukip doesn't have one.

76. Protecting genuine refugees by returning to the UN Convention of Refugees principles

The UN Convention is the problem, creating asylum seekers who cannot be returned or ejected. I thought Ukip didn't want that? We need either to renegotiate the Convention or withdraw from it. You'd need a detailed policy.

77. British companies to be prioritised to deliver foreign aid contracts

I'd rather companies delivering best value for money were prioritised. I want value for money and transparency.

78. Repealing the Climate Change Act 2008 which costs the economy £18n per year

No arguments there. But a cut of £18bn doesn't pay for all Ukip's ring-fences and extra spending.  

79. Scrapping the Large Combustion Plant directive and redevelop UK power stations

We would do that by way of leaving the EU. It is an EU directive. This actually makes little difference since we have already closed, or have started to wind down LCPD affected plant which was due for renewal anyway. It's ancient. Does Ukip even have an up to date energy policy? 

80. Supporting the development of UK Shale Gas with proper safeguards

Rather a bland statement. As it happens, shale isn't the big deal anybody thought it was for the UK, not least with oil prices now collapsing. There is something new on the horizon that we have heard nothing about from Ukip.

81. No new taxpayer subsidy for wind farms

What about addressing the old ones?

82. Leaving the Common Agricultural Policy

This is actually a consequence of leaving the EU. CAP is part of the EU. And what do we do instead? The EU will continue to subsidise food producers, so to compete, we will have to subsidise ours. You have already said you would keep the Single Farm Payment, but what is the rest of the CAP replaced with? You'd need a Brexit policy. 

83. Allowing parliament to vote on GM foods

It can already do that. If it so chooses.

84. Reinstating British territorial waters

That is implied by leaving the EU. But what about management of those waters where British fleets have sold their quotas to foreign trawlers? You'd need a Brexit policy. And a fisheries management policy for that matter.

85. Food to be labelled with country of origin, method of production, method of slaughter and more

Like it does already? The problem is not labeling, but an epidemic of food fraud. You'd need international co-operation to deal with it, thus a comprehensive policy on trade.

86. Ban live animal exports for slaughter

Why? Is this just one of those feel-good populist policies?

87. Scrapping the Bedroom Tax

The "bedroom tax" is as much about reintegrating people from remote for industrial communities into the economy rather than warehousing them on benefits. It could use a little tweaking to make it fairer to the disabled, but it is a useful tool in the box to tack embedded and long term welfare dependency. It might be popular to say you'll scrap it, but you also have to state what you would do instead. 

88. Child benefit only for children permanently resident in the UK

Not unreasonable.

89. Future child benefit to be limited to first two children only

I wouldn't argue with that, but it would be just one measure in a full programme of welfare reform. That would require a policy. Where is it?

90. Ensuring an initial presumption of 50-50 parenting on child custody matters

The childrens' welfare is paramount. The presumption is that the birth mother is best suited - and usually is. But this is why we have a family court system. That needs an overhaul. So where is Ukip's policy?

91. Safeguarding visitation rights for grandparents

So the state is overriding parents judgement now?

92. Supporting a streamlined welfare system and a benefit cap

Like the Tories do already? What is Ukip's welfare policy?

93. Enrolling unemployed benefits claimants into workfare or community schemes

Like the Tories do already? What would Ukip do differently?

94. Placing revenues from shale gas into a Sovereign Wealth Fund to ensure future growth and security

How much will this generate? There isn't a big UK dash for shale gas. 

95. Emphasising the immediate need to utilise forgotten British infrastructure like Manston Airport

Why is there an immediate need if it has been forgotten? And it certainly doesn't look like Manson has been forgotten if you Google it. What on earth does this even mean?

96. No cuts to frontline policing

That ship has already sailed. The police have already been cut, but numbers is not the problem. It's policing policy. Does Ukip have a police policy?

97. Prioritising social housing for those whose parents and grandparents were born locally

So basically immigrants will be excluded from social housing?

98. Reaffirming British laws, rather than allowing dual-track legal systems for minorities in the UK

Will this mean abolishing Beth Din for Jews, or does this just apply to Muslims?

99. Promoting patriotism and the importance of British values in our schools

What are those British values? How will you promote them? Got a policy? 

100. Rebalancing Britain’s economy

To what? What does that even mean?


Last time I gave Ukip a good fisking I concluded as thus:
I've said it before and I'll say it again. This is a party that has no great vision. What we see above is ill thought out guesswork by Ukip, a patchwork with no unifying thread of thought, gaping holes, no applied expertise, no detail, no philosophy and not even a systematic approach to policy making. It is wholly superficial stuff, tinkering with the status quo on the basis of populist sentiment, which is no way to govern a country.

No doubt the Ukipist reaction to this post will be to say that the other party manifestos are equally amateurish and stupid. This is probably true. Were I so inclined I could have a field day driving a horse and cart through a Labor manifesto - and as for the Lib Dems, such would be beyond reasonable analysis and beyond satire. But the crucial distinction is this: Ukip professes to be something different. It isn't.

Party politics has degenerated into two bald men fighting over a comb, each chasing a marginal constituency of floating voters based on what carries over well in the media. So what if anything in the above makes Ukip distinctive apart from a vaguely defined ambition to leave the EU?

One thing that has plagued politics since 1997 is the steady stream of soundbite announcements dressed up as policy, keeping the churnalists and twitterers fed - and rather than pushing a vision, politics is all done on premise of "fly the flag and see who salutes".  Enter Ukip doing exactly the same with no real agenda for change, no real idea of what they want - and not the first idea how to get it done.

You don't have to be a policy analyst to see that no real thought has gone into Ukip's policy making. This is back of fag packet stuff. We're a matter of months from a general election and Ukip don't know what they stand for - but expect us to believe they are an alternative. We can only assume that Ukip takes us for fools too. 
The only thing I would add is that we were since promised that Ukip would get its act together and wunderkind Tim Aker would deliver the goods. If this is all Ukip has to offer, a mere 100 days from the election, then it becomes clearer that Aker was sacked after all. And rightly so. And since Suzanne Evans is responsible for releasing this garbage as current campaign material, she should resign. 

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