UKIP has today published its election manifesto, entitled ‘Believe in Britain’. A summary of the party’s policies can be found in the official Cicero Elections Manifesto Hub. The party’s chosen location was Thurrock in Essex – currently held by the Conservatives with a wafer thin majority of just 92, and a key target seat for Nigel Farage’s party.
The launch event was a clear indication that UKIP is seeking to move beyond previous manifestos, which have proven to be the source of some embarrassment. Nigel Farage is on record as describing the party’s 2010 manifesto as “drivel”, but claimed this time around that the document is “serious”, and based on “fully-costed policies” (a claim that rival parties strongly dispute).
Indeed, alongside the document, UKIP has published an independent assessment of the budgetary implications of its fiscal plans, conducted by the CEBR. With commitments to significantly increase public spending in a number of areas – including health and defence – the assessment seems to be an attempt to reassure those voters who are attracted by UKIP policies, but sceptical of the party’s ability to deliver. Nigel Farage was also at pains to emphasise that UKIP is no longer a ‘one-policy party’, highlighting a raft of policy positions unrelated to the EU or immigration – UKIP’s traditional focus.
With many commentators concluding that UKIP’s election campaign is flagging, and with polls indicating that support for the party has steadily dropped over recent months, Nigel Farage will be hoping that the manifesto can reinvigorate his campaign. Yet with much of the content previously known or anticipated, such a feat seems unlikely.
Key policies outlined include:
• An in/out referendum “as soon as possible” in the next Parliament.
• Introduction of a points-based immigration system, and a five-year ban on unskilled immigration
• An increase in the personal allowance to £13,000
• A new 30p income tax rate, and raising the 40p rate to £55,000
• An extra £12 billion in funding for the NHS
• A commitment to spend 2% of GDP on defence
• Cutting international development assistance by £9 billion
• Removing stamp duty on the first £250,000 for new homes built on brownfield sites
• A cut in business rates for SMEs
• Scrapping HS2, all green energy subsidies, the Department of Energy and Climate Change, the Department for International Development, and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport
The document is, however, light in a couple of key policy areas. Financial services regulation is barely mentioned, and new policies on pensions and savings are almost non-existent. Also, worryingly, the party seems to lack confidence in coming forth with a coherent plan for developing the UK’s infrastructure. HS2 is scrapped, but little else is said about public transport investment in the North, and re-opening Manston Airport is put forward as a solution to the South East’s air capacity crisis. Overall, there is a running theme between the policy areas which seem light on the ground, and that is that they are complex and require experience and expertise; two things that UKIP are still struggling to convince voters they have.