Friday, 22 August 2014

Have UKIP Betrayed Their Principles? - In Reply To @Wallaceme

Mark Wallace of ConservativeHome fame posted an article on his site yesterday, claiming that recent UKIP's policy announcements showed that the party had started to betray it's principles in return for  a chance in power.  Several hours later he was chortling on Twitter that he still hadn't received a decent response to his article from UKIP.

I am not sure if Mark meant an official response or not. Certainly I don't speak for the party officially, but here is a reply to some of his points.

 "It seems the libertarian tag they’ve worn for so long has been unceremoniously ditched. I’d argue they haven’t been meaningfully libertarian for quite some time - supporting the ban on same sex couples getting married, calling to ban the burqa and so on – but this is still a change in how they view and present themselves."

Here Mark has half a point but only half: it is plainly the case that the party has been drifting in a more socially conservative direction for a considerable time. However, this is hardly new news, and it is slightly disingenuous of him to present it as such. In any case, the party has never been purely Libertarian - from what I recall it's official line has always been anti-drug legalisation, for example.

He then goes on to wreck his own argument by bizarrely offering gay marriage as some sort of Libertarian litmus test, showing once again the weird preoccupations of the London elite and how estranged they are from the rest of us. Whatever the rights or wrongs of that particular issue, one thing it could not be said to do was add substantially to the sum of human liberty: it affects perhaps only 3-5% of the population and most of the rights that marriage offers were already available through civil partnerships. You can think of literally scores of issues where a Libertarian position would have vastly more impact on people's lives: localism, devolution, taxation, school vouchers, planning permission and so on. The grand daddy of Libertarian issues is, of course, the right to self government and the necessity of leaving the EU to achieve that. THAT is the true Libertarian litmus test, and one where UKIP has had a vastly better track record than any other party, including his own.

"Ukip has looked into public sector pensions: “I have, and then got very scared and ran away.” After a few moments, Aker adds that: “We haven’t looked into it.” He is clear, however, that Ukip will not suggest an increase in the retirement age."

This is Mark's strongest point. Tim Aker's remarks about public sector pensions certainly seem foolish. UKIP clearly should look at this issue because of the demographic realities he rightly points out. However, he then goes one to weaken his own position but making the glib assertion that:

"Similarly, the facts of an ageing demographic are undeniable and well known. As the population ages, retirement ages must also rise – it’s simple mathematics."

No - it isn't that simple at all. The major problem is that although we are living longer, it is not necessarily the case that we retain the abilities we need to work longer. Here Mark perhaps betrays a middle class Tory bias in his thinking whereas UKIP, as a more working class party, can not afford to be so simplistic. Because physical strength declines before cognitive abilities, raising the retirement age impacts far more on those doing manual work than it does in professional occupations. With luck, a lawyer or a doctor may be perfectly able to function in their professions into their 70s. That is simply not the case if you are mending the roads with a jackhammer. No wonder working class Toryism is dying when the Tories seem to have completely lost touch with their concerns. Thanks for all those ex-supporters, though, Mark - much appreciated.

Mark then opines that we are following LidDem tactics of telling different audiences what they want to here and it will cause us future trouble:

"In short, UKIP have just done exactly what they accuse the “LibLabCon” of doing – putting their chances of advancement at the ballot box ahead of the principles and national interest which they claim to hold dear. It’s an understandable decision, in some ways, but it’s also a massive cheek."

Here pots and kettles come to mind. After all, Mark belongs to a party that not only thinks it cool to junk virtually all of it's previously held principles but to deliberately humiliate it's own activists and supporters in the process. 

Of course he is right that if we did follow the LibDem route of total lack of principle we would store up considerable trouble in the future, and rightly so. However, it is rather too early on the basis of one or two policies to say that is what the party is doing.  No political party serious about government campaigns on a platform of absolute ideological purity and UKIP are no exception: it's a matter of degree.

Finally, in response to his rather condescending tweat asking why UKIP hasn't responded formally to him, perhaps he would like to reflect that as his dying and decaying party fades from the scene, what it's spokesmen have to say is of less and less interest to anyone.