UKIP appear to have two solid policy objectives: to leave the EU, and to introduce a points-based immigration system. All well and good, but beyond that, what do we really know? Granted, these two issues are very important, and the three mainstream parties - along with the Greens, the SNP and Plaid Cymru - all possess the same policies regarding these themes: they are pro-EU and pro-mass immigration. In this respect, UKIP is clearly the party of choice for those voters who dislike the EU political project and a de facto open borders immigration policy.
In 2009 following UKIP’s strong performance in that year’s EU elections, Lord Pearson approached David Cameron and offered to disband UKIP if the latter would commit the Conservative Party to a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. Although this never occurred, it was suggestive that UKIP really was a single-issue party. Subsequently, Nigel Farage has described UKIP’s 2010 General Election manifesto as “drivel.” So, what do UKIP stand for?
We have yet to discover the party’s manifesto for the May 2015 General Election, so it is not yet possible to discover whether or not it should be classified as “drivel”, but a posting on the UKIP website from earlier this week, entitled ‘100 days till the election, 100 reasons to vote UKIP’, appears to forward a list of 100 concrete policy suggestions, but will they translate into policy pledges? Upon an initial reading, the majority of these suggestions are ones that I would support, but it is hard to discern how UKIP proposes to tackle the deficit and finance its pledges which involve additional public expenditure. Simply leaving the EU, slashing the foreign aid budget and ending mass immigration would not in themselves plug the budgetary black hole. Then again, nothing offered by the established political parties regarding tackling the deficit, let alone the national debt, appears to be overly credible.
It therefore remains to be seen if UKIP can successfully transform itself from a single- or dual-issue vehicle of popular protest shouting “none of the above!”, into a fully-fledged political party with a cohesive set of policies that move beyond a populist cry of frustration and discontent. From an initial reading, its ‘100 reasons to vote UKIP’ suggest that the party has moved away, to a certain extent, from its earlier Atlanticist Thatcherite bent, which is encouraging. Whether or not UKIP is offering a siren or a clarion call, well, I shall reserve judgement until the manifesto is published.