Comment: Ukip is turning into a pale blue Tory party
The London Times had a headline this week: 'Nigel Farage says Ukip have the wrong people in it.
The Times, once a pillar of respectability, is master of the one-line misquote or half truth and the editorials come direct from Conservative central office. However there was a faint trace of reason running through the piece and the conclusion of the editorial.
Let me haul my colours up the mast for the umpteenth time. I am a founder member of Ukip. I probably slip into the top twenty donors of the last 15 years, remain a member and I am working hard to get my friend and colleague Jane Collins elected in May as my replacement in Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire.
Ukip will sweep the board at the EU elections and rightly so. It is the only party which has consistently been honest and right about political union, immigration and the disastrous Euro. The party is also bang on with its energy policy, for which I take some modest credit in getting off the ground in 2006. The informed and articulate Roger Helmer, Ukip's energy spokesman, should be offered more air time by the BBC, an institution which does so much to mislead the British public on this important issue.
So far, so good. But what is not fully understood, save I suspect by Sand Raj, the FT political correspondent, is the real reason Ukip is doing so well. It is because this administration is so appallingly bad.
Never confuse brains with a bull market, as we say in the City. This coalition has seen the national debt increase by 50%, immigration remain out of control, the armed forces slashed, and election promises simply abandoned. Mainstream party leaders seemed to have had charisma bypasses and the standard of living for ordinary families has not improved since 2005.
The coalition has enforced an energy policy which is simply suicidal, giving the UK some of the most expensive domestic and industrial electricity, before tax, in the world. Even as I write another £800 million has been earmarked for offshore wind turbines with a history of failure. Add the ludicrous £50 billion for a new rail network nobody wants, monthly borrowings of £9 billion and it is hardly surprising Ukip is soaring. Ironically the party of fruitcakes and loonies is now seen by working people as nowhere near as loony as those now in office or those on the opposition benches, who are equally culpable for the demise of the economy.
So far, so good for Ukip. But although it sticks in my craw to say it, the Times editorial had a point.
The Liberal Democrats always reminded me of my old cook sergeant Devanney. I remember on a cold winter's day on the rifle ranges in bleak Northumberland that great man stirring a huge tureen of soup. A frozen young soldier looked up at him and asked: "What's the soup, Sarge?" He looked down paternally and said gently: "Whaddya want it to be, son?" The Lib Dems in days of yore would knock on your door when canvassing and ask your opinion. They would then agree and ask for your vote. A very effective trick until, of course, you land up in government and your cover is blown.
I was a founder member of Ukip. We started as a pressure group. We wanted to leave the EU, return to self-government and avoid the common currency like the plague. Pretty straight forward.
In the last ten years Ukip has been trying to emerge from the chrysalis as a fully fledged political party. This is far more difficult than one might imagine. I won a Labour seat in Yorkshire. Many of my most effective activists and committee members are former Old Labour. So developing a coherent policy strategy has always been a nightmare. The Ukip policies described by Nigel as drivel fell short in so far as they could be criticised as logorrheic but they contained some very sound ground work and some of their authors were very distinguished in their field. This failing was probably owed to the usual committee problem of finalising any document to the satisfaction of everyone –and therefore no-one.
However the current lurch to the no-policy policy will damage Ukip in 2015 for a number of reasons. The EU election is for putting the boot into the muppets who now govern us. But in 2015 the party will have to put some credible items in the shop window.
The current leadership has retreated to behind closed doors in (what are still in Ukip) smoke-filled rooms. They want to 'modernise'. Indeed, one might argue professionalise, homogenise, sterilise, pasteurise or any other 'ise' you fancy.
This is a dangerous game to play because babies go out with the bath water. Look at the terrible demise of the Conservative party membership when 'Dave' got all cuddly and trendy. Ukip are now getting modest, grudging praise from the Observer and Independent. They have come into the mainstream; respectable almost. But being invited to drinks by Polly Toynbee cuts no mustard in Leeds or Hull. Activists who joined in despair from the modern Conservative party came to Ukip out of conviction, not for a 'don't-frighten-the-horses, all-things-to-all-men, pale blue party'.
I have seen many a political correspondent make the mistake of assuming this 'professionalisation' will attract younger voters. Well it doesn't. The majority of Young Independence are libertarians and classical liberals. Like me, fellow supporters of Austrian economics and followers of Mises, Hayek and Menger. When I speak at universities on these matters there is standing room only. Ukip has an opportunity to break the mould: a truly radical and new party to offer something different to a tired, disillusioned and disengaged electorate.
We must face up to the real dangers facing the nation. We must continue to tell the truth and not fudge the issues. I would like to see a bold approach. Lifestyle choice welfare must stop, fractional reserve banking must cease – we must return to hard money. Condemn money printing and roll back the state, especially in employment legislation. We need serious pension reform before it is too late. Or is Ukip to be a sort of Tory party, a Thatcherite, eurosceptic think tank which will disappear if the Conservative retrieve their brand?
So yes, Ukip does have some of the wrong people at the moment. And I think some of them dwell in Ukip's central office.
Godfrey Bloom is an independent MEP for Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire.
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