Thursday, April 30, 2015

Most exciting UK election in ages? No to UKIP (Part Four)

UKIP is not a libertarian party.  It is not a free market party. It is not the UK equivalent of ACT.  It is a populist party with some good policies, and an outspoken leader who, sometimes, is rather good. 

So if you vote for a UKIP candidates, judge the individual on their merits, because the manifesto is a very mixed bag.

For me, in a first past the post system, a minor party better be pretty good, a decent alternative to deserve my vote.  After all, in most seats it has no hope of winning, so you might vote for it there as a statement of moral principle in support.  In those where it has a hope, it is more serious.  Is it better than the incumbent major party candidate?

So how does UKIP stack up?  Yes it wants lower taxes (although it wants a diverted profit tax too), yes it wants to leave the EU, but wants to keep agricultural subsidies.  Yes it wants to cut foreign aid, scrap the Scottish subsidy (the Barnett Formula), the HS2 vanity project, merge government departments, end fake charities, limit child benefit to two children, deregulate childcare, tighten up access to social housing, repeal the Climate Change Act and withdraw from the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. 

So why the hesitancy?

It's not so much the contradictions of liberalising the smoking ban for pubs and restaurants, but wanting to ban smoking in parks and introduce a sugar tax.  It isn't the tightening of protection of Green Belts and a new planning presumption in favour of conservation.  It isn't the desire to just pour more money into the NHS and ban foreign companies from tendering to supply services.   It isn't the creation of a sovereign wealth fund from taxes on energy extraction to pay for social care for the elderly.  It isn't the higher tax on empty homes, the abolition of tertiary fees for those studying science, medicine and engineering.

It's not even the substance of the policy on immigration, which is to have what is called an "Australian style points system" for all migrants.  It is the deeper, more insidious focus of UKIP rhetoric which is to consider that for most problems in the UK, immigration is a core contributor. The problems of EU membership, in terms of regulatory hindrance and waste are obvious, and to its credit, UKIP talks about withdrawing from the EU not to engage in little Britain isolationism, but to promote more free trade with the rest of the world.  Good.

Whilst, on the face of it, there is quite a bit to like, let's not pretend what is at the centre of UKIP's support base - opposition to immigration.

Blame for many of the UK's so-called ills is laid at immigration from Eastern Europe.  Not immigration of Islamists (for which I have some sympathy in terms of national security), but of people whose families spent at least two generations previously under totalitarian communism.

NHS waiting lists? Blame immigration
Housing shortage? Blame immigration
Traffic congestion? Blame immigration
Lack of school places? Blame immigration
Lack of jobs for the unskilled? Blame immigration

Moreover, the more disturbing, economic nonsense, is that immigration lowered wages which is bad for the economy.

With the exception of the arrival of some criminal gangs, all of the problems attributed to immigration are problems of statist solutions to allocating resources, not immigration.

The NHS problem is because it is free to anyone who turns up.  The housing problem is because Councils have a legal obligation to house whoever turns up, and Councils severely limit permissions for building housing.  Roads are congested because they are poorly priced and state funding of new road capacity was severely constrained for political reasons for many years.  There is a lack of school places because funding for schools does not follow pupils and parents, and so on.

Yes, there is a real issue about a country with a welfare state, with free health, education and housing offered to those who are poor, with open borders to countries which are much poorer per capita.  Yes, there are genuine issues about serious criminals, and gangs of criminals coming to the UK with no way of intercepting them.

However, UKIP has tapped into something darker,  It's the envy dripping xenophobia of part of the British working class who don't like these new people, with their funny ways, showing us up, working longer hours, for less money than they'll take, raising families, with aspiration.   That is exactly what UKIP is tapping into, as much as many of its well meaning folk deny it.  It made a colleague of mine at work, who is Romanian, and far from unskilled, feel unwelcome and uncomfortable.  

Any normal and fair-minded person would have a perfect right to be concerned if a group of Romanian people suddenly moved in next door

Not a gang of men, as he previously said, not squatting Roma, but a "group of Romanian people". Really?  Even if I give Farage the benefit of the doubt, in not carefully using words, it's the expression of xenophobia that IS unreasonable, and unfair. 

It is this the far left have taken and run with, to claim UKIP is racist, wants to deport foreigners and hysteria.  All of which is deplorable nonsense and smears.

Yet the mere fact that the far left can play this card is because UKIP has created the space for it.  It offers absolutely no solutions to health, education, housing or transport issues that are meaningful, it wants to sustain or even worsen the status quo.  Yes, its policies on energy and climate change are laudable, and withdrawing from the EU is commendable, but playing a tune on the back of the xenophobia of many is just plain irrational and wrong.

There is another dimension, which is the EU blaming when it is not only wrong, but actually gives succour to tyranny.  For some time, UKIP has blamed the EU for the events in Ukraine, claiming the EU orchestrated the popular revolt against the Putinesque thug Yanukovych, and that somehow Putin should be admired.  Seriously?  Whilst there was definitely a Western wooing of pro-Western politicians in Ukraine, including the EU, how was this evil?  Was it wrong to encourage Ukraine to ditch the 20 years of bankrupt kleptocratic autocracy that meant its per capita income has stagnated? Yes, Ukrainian nationalists are awful, yes the Russian minority does have genuine fears, but to damn the EU more than Putin? Seriously?  As bad as the EU is, it isn't executing its opponents, and we are a long way away from Russia - just ask the former satellite states of the USSR.

So no.  I wont be voting UKIP.  Not because I disagree with some of its policies, but because they are all entirely tainted by an overwhelming emphasis on blaming resource issues that are due to statism, on the arrival of foreigners, and the result of this rhetoric is this:

Yes, I'm oh so tempted to vote UKIP for what is good in it, I'm tempted to do so to stick two fingers up at the far left fascists who have vandalised UKIP property and threatened UKIP campaigners. However, I cannot in the depths of my conscience give moral authority to a party that has deliberately played on the xenophobia of ignorant bigots - even though it is actually against Europeans!  Yet there are a few who are deserving of your vote.  Douglas Carswell in Clacton is most clearly the best hope for a more libertarian UKIP.  Nigel Farage in South Thanet, might be tempting, given how well he debates at the European Parliament, but while most of his instincts are right, he IS the leader

So what about the other minor parties?

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