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Joe Armitage: The cheap populism and economic illiteracy of UKIP

Screen shot 2013-03-30 at 19.04.02Joe Armitage is Chairman of Medway Conservative Future and Deputy Chairman (Political), Rochester East Conservatives. He’s also on a gap year interning for a Conservative MP. Follow him on Twitter.

UKIP are the only party you can trust with the economy, we are told. However, one quick glance at their rather paltry and vague manifesto suggests otherwise. It really is little wonder why the party has such a seemingly poor grasp of economics: their previous leader Lord Pearson didn’t even know the difference between millions and billions. UKIP’s 2010 manifesto is truly baffling. However, unlike the Labour Party’s, it specifies specific expenditure and tax cut. The only downside is that those specifications do not add up whatsoever and would, ironically, result in the United Kingdom plummeting into a state comparable to Greece’s.

UKIP are all for a small state, bar the excessively oversized military. Nigel Farage’s party would increase military expenditure by 40% - a mere £18bn. The country’s deficit would widen and the sovereign debt would continue to spiral out of control, but at least we’ll have copious tanks and a few aircraft carriers to fight a war we are not in. For a decade, UKIP will also spend £3bn per annum on flood defences. Presumably these defences will also fend off immigrants, for there would be a two year immigration freeze and then only 50,000 lucky souls would be permitted to enter thereafter. In 2035 one third of the UK’s population will be over the age of 65. I am sure at this point the adversity to immigration will be regretted upon realising generous pensions and free healthcare cannot be sustained with such a small workforce.

Not to worry: at least we’ll have £2bn worth of shiny new prisons and £1bn extra per annum spent on ensuring people are incarcerated for longer. We will also have a lot of nuclear power stations. with £3.5bn per annum being spent on their incremental construction over a 25-year period. Not only this. but the UK’s transport expenditure will be increased by £3bn – that will quell the state’s expansion. Do not fear, however: this is all fully costed as we will be out of the European Union and therefore not making the £4bn net contribution per year – phew.

The economic illiteracy does not end there. UKIP intends to abolish Inheritance Tax and tuition fees, costing a further £5.5bn. What are they smoking? Whatever it is, they ought to stop because the self-proclaimed libertarian party will not be legalising cannabis. The ‘high’ spending does not end there, the NHS and education budgets will be ring-fenced – you could be forgiven for thinking this entire manifesto is populist drivel. However, I would not be so bold as to question the ‘straight talking’ rise of UKIP. A promise to mount Nigel Farage on a unicorn and parade him through the streets of London if he became Prime Minister would not be out of place in this 15 page document – no, really.

The smorgasbord of ideologies within this manifesto is confusing. UKIP’s intention to increase the personal allowance rate to £11,500 and introduce a 31% flat rate of tax is certainly reflective of the small state they apparently so desperately wish to see. Their intention to abolish VAT and instead allow local authorities to raise a larger proportion of their expenditure through a local sales taxes is equally amenable with a small state - but would condemn the UK to economic ruin if implemented alongside a ring-fenced NHS and education budget and over £36bn of populist giveaways.

If they want to tax us less, they need to spend less, not more. I am sure many libertarians are drawn to UKIP because of the flat rate policy, but far more are attracted to the party because, under a UKIP administration, tuition fees will be abolished and the sacred NHS won’t be cut. If this party genuinely wishes to be a part of leadership debates in 2015, a massive overhaul to the manifesto is required because at present it wreaks of populism and economic illiteracy.


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