Episode Ten: Ukip’s Five Year Plan
It is morally wrong that five independent fee-paying schools should send more students to Oxbridge than the worst performing two thousand secondary schools combined.
The increasing ebb and flow of people across our planet is one of the greatest issues of our time.
On the major issues of the day – immigration, the economy, our health service and living standards – the establishment parties have repeatedly and knowingly raised the expectation of the public, only to let us down, time and time again.
Yes, broadly speaking. The IMF’s statement yesterday, to the effect that the fiscal projections in Osborne’s most recent budget are unlikely to be met, shows that they’re still at it.
The Government continues to signal its intention to widen engagement in international conflict while, at the same time, implementing a crippling round of further military spending cuts.
To help protect the enduring legacy of the motor industry and our classic and historic vehicles, Ukip will exempt vehicles over 25 years old from vehicle excise duty.
That gives it away – all this is from Ukip’s manifesto. If the whole manifesto were like that last proposal, all lounge-bar populism and talk of political correctness gone mad, Ukip would be a less disruptive force in British politics. The party’s policy proposals are often silly. Their willingness to identify problems, though, can be hard to disagree with. The Ukip manifesto is strong on raising issues which the mainstream parties would rather gloss over. As James Meek’s piece on Grimsby makes clear, there is more to the upsurge in Ukip’s appeal than just a protest vote.
I had always assumed that Nigel Farage is an idiot. I still basically think that, in that his solutions to Britain’s problems are what in Italy used to be called (and maybe still is) fantapolitica – fantasy politics. He is an astute idiot, though, and where it once seemed that Ukip had only populist arm-waving, it now looks as if it’s more complicated than that: Ukip has populist arm-waving, and also a medium-term plan.
That plan is known as the 2020 strategy. As summed up by Chris Bruni-Lowe, the party’s election strategist, its crucial component is to win a seat for Farage in Thanet South, and then to ‘come second in more than 100 northern constituencies’. Then, in the 2020 general election, Ukip can present itself as the only viable opposition party across whole swathes of the deindustrialised North. As Meek made clear in describing Grimbsy, the party’s appeal there is not trivial. The typical Ukip voter is older, whiter, poorer and less educated than the UK norm. It’s a demographic well represented in areas which currently feel they have no choice except to vote Labour, not least because the Conservative party ‘brand’ is still toxic.
This is the real sting in the idea ‘Vote Nigel, Get Ed’. If enough people do vote Nigel, we will indeed get Ed. Then, come 2020, a Labour-led government which has spent five years implementing austerity policies – which it will have to do, to fulfill its manifesto pledge to cut the deficit every year – will have to contest its northern heartland with a non-Tory, anti-austerity alternative. Add to that the possibility of further trouble in the Eurozone, with Ukip howling for a referendum and blaming Europe for all Britain’s troubles, and it’s not hard to imagine Labour having future problems with its traditional Northern vote to rival the ones it currently has with its traditional Scottish vote.
So although Farage is an idiot, he also isn’t. This is a viable plan, though it’s also one which could fail at the very first stage: the Thanet South ballot. Farage has said he will quit as Ukip leader if he doesn’t win the contest there, a three-way marginal between the Tories, Labour and Ukip. (Just to spice things up, the Tory candidate, Craig Mackinlay, is a former deputy leader of Ukip.) When Meek visited the constituency last autumn, Ukip were already throwing resources at the seat. But the latest constituency poll by Lord Aschroft has the Tories with a tiny lead over Ukip. ‘It is frankly just not credible for me to continue to lead the party without a Westminster seat,’ Farage has said, and also ‘if I fail to win Thanet South, it is curtains for me. I will have to step down.’ Politicians are good at saying things which when closely parsed allow them to change their minds, but there doesn’t seem to be much wiggle-room for Farage. If he loses, Ukip’s whole plan goes down the plughole. A big, big part of the 2020 general election is taking place right now, in Thanet South.