What is UKIP’s vision for Britain?

I had an interesting email recently from a UKIP parish councillor, who said that he’s constantly asked the question “UKIP want to leave the EU, but what is their vision for Britain?”    This is a massive question and a short article can’t do justice to it but any attempt is better than none.  I’ll give my personal answer to the question.  No doubt readers will have their own ideas as well.

UKIP can be summed up in three words: we believe in freedom, independence and democracy.  We believe in a strong nation state, working with other countries across the globe as friends and trading partners but not being governed by them.  We believe in Britain and Britishness.  I should be proud to be British (just as the Germans should be proud to be German) – our national identity helps to build a sense that ‘we are all in it together’.  And we believe in the rule of law: no-one should be better off (or ‘rewarded’) because they have broken the law.

The State exists to protect its citizens – whether we’re talking about defence or crime, to care for those who cannot care for themselves, or to provide a safety-net for those who are temporarily out of work and struggling to find employment.  The State does not exist to become ever-more intrusive.  Countless government departments, quangos and bureaucracies are regulating our daily lives more and more.

When we talk about words like ‘freedom’ and ‘independence’, we mean that decisions should be taken at the most local level possible.  On any issue, can it be left to the individual to make up their own mind?  If not, can it be dealt with at local level?  Is there really a need for the national government to get involved?  One of the problems with the State is that it tries to do too much.

As an individual, I can generally spend my money better than the government can.  The role of the State should be limited: “The State should only do what only the State can do”.

So how does this philosophy translate into policies?

1.  Every penny that is taken in taxation should provide value for money.  No-one likes to pay taxes, but they should be kept as low as possible.  Lower taxes encourage economic growth, and reward hard work.

From the idea of rewarding hard work flows our ‘no tax on minimum wage’ policy – currently for a flat tax to roll Income Tax and National Insurance into one and save much on collection.  Likewise, VAT is the ultimate bureaucratic tax – and costs billions on fraud each year.  We would replace it with a much simpler sales tax and get rid of the complex bureaucracy.  Ideally we’d like to get rid of employers’ national insurance contributions too – it’s a tax on jobs.  But the reality is that the country is in a financial mess (we’re currently borrowing £4,000 per household per year) and this would take time to achieve.

2.  We would scrap projects that are unnecessary and bad value for money: Leave the EU, have a bonfire of unnecessary regulations, scrap the so-called ‘green taxes’ that are hitting energy bills, do a proper job of cutting quangos, get rid of the unproductive Climate Change Act and scrap projects like HS2.

3.  The education system should reward hard work (including grammar schools) and give parents as much choice as possible (a voucher system to enable families to make their own decisions on schooling rather than let the State make them based purely on postcode).

4.  We treat crime very seriously.  Therefore we oppose watering-down of our basic rights and freedoms, and the erosion of the right to trial by jury or access to legal representation.  If I’m accused of a crime, I should have the opportunity to defend myself properly.  The other side of the coin is that sentencing should be tough to protect the public from criminal behaviour, and make sure that ‘crime doesn’t pay’.

In a recent high-profile case, a defendant sentenced to 8 months in prison was released after just 2 months.  We don’t believe that this sends out the right message to the public; sentences should mean what they say.

5.  On immigration, we could never support Boris Johnson’s idea of an amnesty for illegal immigrants because it would reward an illegal action.  Why should an illegal immigrant be allowed to stay, whilst someone who followed the rules and applied for a visa was refused?

The system is in such a mess that we would put a 5-year freeze on permanent settlement whilst we sort the system, clear the backlog of cases and try to find out who is actually in the country.

6.  On defence, we have to protect the country.  The capability of our armed forces is getting lower; we need to slash bureaucracy – tens of thousands of people are employed by the MoD.  We cannot keep getting involved in conflicts which don’t affect us.  There is plenty of money to be saved – which could be used to buy the proper equipment, treat our heroes properly and bring the armed forces back up to full strength.

7.  Because we believe in democracy, it is wrong for MPs to decide moral issues on our behalf – especially when their Manifesto doesn’t cover it.  We have the right to decide those issues ourselves, and the people should be able to call a binding referendum on such issues.

Of course, I could have summed up our political philosophy and the policies that flow from it in just two words: Common Sense.

Save money, cut a quango

A group of academics at universities in Sheffield and Birmingham have claimed that UKIP’s plan to cut spending on quangos is over-simplistic.  I don’t agree.

It is always possible for researchers to find some quangos that do good work, whereas others (for example the Potato Council – yes, it does really exist and pays its staff an average of over £47,000 per year: www.potato.org.uk) have clearly had their chips.

Professor Flinders suggests that the BBC (which costs an annual £145.50 per household – £3.8 billion) is an example of a good quango. But in its current state it is poor value for our taxes; how ironic that the report was published on the day many former BBC employees were revealed to have received hundreds of thousands of pounds each in payoffs!

Dr. Dommett is quite right to point out that previous governments have failed to achieve massive savings through quango reform, but this is a symptom of a lack of political will rather than evidence that savings can’t be made. It’s not just about the savings either. A quango carrying out an essential function could be streamlined to become part of a government department and subject to greater democratic accountability.

Nigel Farage speaks at Leeds mosque

I am delighted that Nigel Farage has spoken today at the Ghousia mosque in Armsley, near Leeds.

What has been really striking is the reaction online.  Those who claim (mainly the ‘Hope Not Hate’ lot) that UKIP has some soft undercurrent of racism have been thoroughly shown up.  I’ve seen precisely one UKIP supporter complain about the visit online, and they were roundly shot down by other UKIP members pointing out what we stand for.

UKIP believes in Britishness.  We believe that there should be such a thing as ‘British culture’, which celebrates the positives about our nation.  A common belief that we should make our country the best that we can.  And I’m sure that we all have our views of what Britishness means.  Whether it’s a belief in standing up for what’s right, or the dogged tenacity of those few who defended our nation at the Battle of Britain, or the courage shown by William Wilberforce MP in making us the nation to lead the way in abolishing the abomination that was human slavery, we all have a view on what being British means.

I’m English every bit as much as I am British.  I believe in the Union because England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland work better together.  Those who try to create tensions between our nations for their own political ends weaken our greatest strength.  Bring on the referendum in Scotland!  I believe that the SNP will be soundly defeated, and rightly so.  

If we believe in Britishness then it follows that we in UKIP must reach out to the Muslim community.  Everyone, whether Christian or Muslim, Jewish or Sikh, agnostic or atheist, should be proud to be part of our great nation.  It’s what binds us together.  When we see ourselves as united and working together, we achieve far more than we do when we are divided.  We should never feel guilty about being proud to be English/British.  Every Spaniard I’ve ever met has been proud to be Spanish – and rightly so!

It’s not a negative ‘nationalist’ fervour.  I’m proud to live in my local community, and I’ve lived within 10 minutes walk of here all my life.  I’m proud to be a Sheffielder.  I’m proud to be a Yorkshireman.  And yes, I’m proud to be English and I’m proud to be British.

If it weren’t for the insidious European Union redefining what the word ‘European’ means, I’d be proud to be European too.  I’m still pro-Europe – and therefore, passionately anti-EU!

Nigel Farage mosque speech