In austerity Somerset, it’s all systems go – the candidates for May’s County Elections have been announced, and, riding on a wave of media exposure, UKIP are standing in more seats than ever. Last week, UKIP head honcho Nigel Farage swept through the county to rally his troops. Speaking in Taunton , a flat-capped Farage gleefully announced that there will be a UKIP candidate standing in 90% of County seats – that translated to 48 making them the 4th biggest after Labour and Tory on 55 each and the Lib Dems on 52.
So, faced with the biggest UKIP presence in history, and bombarded with triumphant rhetoric from UKIP High Command, Somerset has to ask a very obvious question – who are these people and what would they do in power?
“As we go into the county council election period, it is fair for people to ask what UKIP are for” said Farage, in a press release coinciding with his arrival in the West.
But UKIP are far from up-front about who they are and what they represent. It suits them very nicely to be seen as a single-issue party.
‘More Tory than the Tories’
Yes, a large part of UKIP’s programme is about the European Union, and striving to end Britain’s involvement with it. But behind the Euro-obsession, UKIP are hiding some of the most divisive policies in present-day politics.
In reality, UKIP are more Tory than the Tories. These are people who think the Cameron-led Conservatives are too soft – that the Coalition isn’t cutting welfare enough, isn’t slashing services enough and isn’t giving over enough of our lives to profit-chasing private interests.
‘disgraced right wing figures’
UKIP’s National Executive Committee boasts right-wing figures like disgraced ex-Tory Neil Hamilton, who infamously favours outright bans on immigration, trade unions, child benefit and the complete privatisation of all schools and the NHS.
UKIP is a relic of a time when some were genuinely fooled into thinking David Cameron was going to be the most left-leaning Tory leader in decades. Once, people claimed Cameron’s was a cuddly, new, detoxified Tory Party that cared about the environment, understood poverty and could be trusted with the NHS. Half-way through the most socially destructive government since the Thatcher-era, that couldn’t seem longer ago.
‘dedicated followers of Thatcherism’
UKIP, meanwhile, are dedicated followers of Thatcherism. Their key economic policy is the introduction of a poll tax, the same measure that proved Mrs Thatcher’s downfall.
A poll tax is a flat tax – simply put, everyone gives the same percentage of their earnings to the taxman, which sounds fair for the first five minutes. In fact, it achieves the complete opposite of equality of sacrifice.
For low and average-earners, losing 25% (as it would be if UKIP had their way) of their earnings would be a huge burden, making life more difficult for millions. The wealthiest, by contrast, could lose 25% and barely notice, let alone experience any reduction in their basic standard of living.
‘rhetoric on immigration’
But if UKIP’s economics make them seem like a kind of Tory Party Plus, their rhetoric on immigration sails closer to BNP Lite.
You can judge a party by the company it keeps, and Farage and co’s fascist shadows have recently been singing UKIP’s praises. This week, they were endorsed by the English Defence League, the twenty-first century National Front – “all nationalist parties should stand aside in areas that UKIP have a good chance of winning”, said an EDL spokesman.
This came after Marine le Pen, leader of France’s neo-Nazi Front National boasted of close connections between the two parties last month.
In Somerset, and across the country as a whole, a vote for UKIP isn’t just a wasted vote – it’s a vote for cuts that are even more extreme, for people who think a disastrous Coalition is pushing a namby-pamby “liberal metropolitan agenda” and, in short, for something nastier than the Nasty Party.