Ukip is dictating the policies of all mainstream parties

kerenElection fever is upon us! Exciting isn’t it? The cut and thrust of political debate, the eager anticipation of posting your ballot paper into a little tin box, smug in the knowledge that your participation has either transformed the country for the better or maintained the comfortable, sensible status quo.

Not feeling it? Come on, what’s wrong with you? The major parties are doing their best to give us well-defined oppositional policies that make it easy to choose who will provide the best future for you and those you care about.

The Lib Dems and Ukip want to take low earners out of taxation and remove tax on the minimum wage. The Tories will raise the 40p threshold to £50,000 and the tax-free allowance to £12,500, while Ukip promises to cut tax from 40p to 35p on earnings up to £55,000.

The Lib Dems, Labour and Ukip all promise to abolish the bedroom tax. Tories and Ukip want to limit child benefit to two children and both intend to keep the benefit cap and lower it to £20,000. Tories and Ukip want to ban immigrants from receiving state benefits for four or five years after arrival. The Tories have promised to enter the election as euro sceptics with an in-out referendum, just like Ukip.

It’s become impossible to work out of Ukip is stealing the most popular policies of the major parties or if the major parties are stealing the most popular policies of Ukip. But it feels like Nigel Farage, derided and ridiculed up and down the land, not even an MP, is managing to dictate the policy of all the mainstream parties. Vote anything – get Ukip, who now claim to be ‘beyond the politics of left and right’ and the major parties are doing a good job of proving that to be true for them, gratis. Only the Greens seem capable of thinking for themselves and basing policies on an internally coherent agenda.

We need to understand what Labour is offering

as an alternative, not how miffed they are with the Tories.

While the Conservatives repeat the major lie of the past five years, that Labour wrecked the economy and they have sweated blood to clear up the mess, Labour have failed to deny that this is true. They have been weak and subservient in the face of this overriding simplistic narrative that’s constantly and casually repeated at every opportunity because the truth is complex and difficult to explain in a sound bite. The Tories know it’s a lie, but it doesn’t matter to them because it works too well to be abandoned.

The first Tory poster of the campaign proclaims ‘let’s stay on the road to recovery’ against the backdrop of a long road (German incidentally, as ours are inconveniently full of potholes due to local authority cuts and the unexpected arrival of winter) fading off into the beautiful blue skies of the future. It states the deficit has been halved, a claim based on the deliberate mangling and wilful disregard of actual numbers – in cash terms it’s been reduced by about a third. They might accuse Labour of weaponising the NHS but lies are the Tories’ number one missile, and Labour can’t seem to muster up a truth-bomb to counter attack with.

By the way, the NHS seemed to leap at the opportunity to be a weapon when the A&E waiting times were released. I’ve never known a public service jump so swiftly at media opportunities to announce how badly they are doing. For days the media was full of doctors and nurses admitting that they’re failing to do their jobs and cannot cope. It was interesting that the accompanying commentary consistently praised frontline staff and blamed management and government policy for failing to meet those (much reduced since 2010) targets. A cynic might suspect the public service unions had engineered it.

The Tories ‘road’ poster also claims there are now 760,000 more businesses since they came to power. Wow, that’s a lot! Our high streets and industrial estates must be overflowing with new companies vying for our business and employing millions. Except they’re not. 707,200 of those 760,000 are unregistered businesses that don’t pay VAT or PAYE and have no employees. It’s been long known that jobcentre plus encourages unemployed people to register as self-employed so they can access in-work benefits and in order to falsify unemployment figures. The Tories are using those little lies to promote another, bigger lie.

Labour’s first posters of the campaign are using the Conservative colour and style from five years ago to attack the government on the NHS, stating it cannot survive another five years of Tory policy. Why on earth have they abandoned their own brand at a time when they should be promoting it? Where’s that indecipherable squiggle of a red Labour rose gone? Why are they plastering Cameron’s airbrushed face all over the place when they should be telling us what they plan to do with the NHS?  We need to understand what Labour is offering as an alternative if they want us to vote for them, not how miffed they are with the Tories.

So far the Lib Dems have shown us nothing in the way of visuals, although this is being offered up by supporters as a positive image. ‘We’ve been fisted by the Iron Lady’ springs to mind as a strapline.

So far, so very disappointing: they’ll all have to do much better if we’re going to find good reasons to vote.


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Judith Martin
Judith Martin
9 years ago

Unfortunately it’s not true that the main parties are stealing Ukip’s policies. That’s why we still have High Speed 2, top-down imposition of housing numbers, and 20% VAT on building repairs and restoration. If you can believe anything they say – and I’d eat the polling booth pencil sooner than vote for them – their policies would cancel all these.

Removing the VAT would make it easier to resist developers saying it’s too expensive to repair existing housing stock – and maintain communities – when they can flatten everything and rebuild, free of VAT. Then there’s the inevitable loss of affordable/social housing – see Lambeth, Southwark, just about any large-scale redevelopment. The environmental saving and social benefit would be huge.

Giving real autonomy on how much and where to develop, back to democratically elected local authorities would – hopefully – mean people are more willing to identify where new housing is really needed, and to accept it, especially if it’s not on easy-picking greenfield sites (see above). Mind you, it might mean improving the quality of said democratically elected local authorities.

And cancelling HS2, where the economic calculations were based on the idea that train time is wasted because no-one works on trains – which gives some idea of how often MPs take a normal 2nd class train – would save, at the last count £43bn. That figure is nearly a year old; it won’t have gone down, only up. That’s money that could be spent on social housing and other social goods, including improving the existing rail links, instead of having to compensate householders and destroying decent property, as well as swathes of countryside.

But the mainstream parties only copy the repellent policies.

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