UKIP – Endangered Species?

Here is a controversial thought: The UK Independence Party serve no purpose and may as well use their manifesto booklet to create paper mache hat for Jean-Claude Juncker.

Here’s another: UKIP is proving itself to be a fighting force in the 2017 election and have every chance of securing a majority (or at least a couple of seats.)

Which is more true? As the election campaign 2017 (2K17 as the youthful Lib Dems may say) has shown, there can be ups and lots of downs. The class clown and the butt (or Abut) of jokes has been Diane Abbott. The wishful thinking Shadow Home Secretary showing how politics most definitely is not done.

Paul Nuttall, the leader of UKIP incase you were scratching your head, renamed the Plaid Cymru leader Natalie in a bizarre election debate (her real name being Leanne). Perhaps it demonstrates the far cry the party of purple has come; from one of the most significant politicians in a generation to perhaps the most unprepared.

Nigel Farage was a character. He’s not dead but he very nearly was killed before the polls had even closed at the 2010 general election. Flying a plane with a tail banner, reserved only for the most enthusiastic football fans, which suddenly became caught in the engine, sending the then UKIP leader and his plane down to the ground. Somehow, Theresa May  donning the brown leathers for a trip in the sky is unlikely to appear this time around, however satisfying I think it may be. The message really is about how charismatic Nigel Farage was as a leader of something he passionately believed in.

Whether that something was right or wrong is a matter of opinion. There are those who call UKIP a racist, homophobic, out-of-touch party, and those who say that the party is standing up for the interests of the United Kingdom. Fair enough on both sides. What differs is the type of person who leads that party.

When Farage announced he was stepping down as its leader, following the 2016 EU Referendum, there was a sense of sadness. Never before have I been amused when watching the ten o’clock news, but when Mr Farage turned up, the news turned into a comedy performance. From his facial expressions to his drinking a pint with the crosshatch coat brigade, he was the politician and leader who stood out from the rest.  Though he had fans and his enemies, UKIP sparked debate and conversation about politics.

For UKIP-ers in 2017, the story is bleak. Their only MP decided to sit as an independent MP rather than represent the party. Its current leader (Paul Nuttall incase you’re still scratching that head) lacks that personality and performance that Farage gave when talking about politics. When Mr F got himself into a hole, and there were many, he managed to somehow squirm his way out with a few potent hand gestures and a couple of big words from the Dictionary of the European Commission.

On the other hand, Paul Nuttall’s recent downhill tumble seemed to begin with Hillsborough. A sensitive topic, particularly on his home turf of Merseyside. His claims about being caught up in the disaster were found to be untrue. When a colleague of his said they were responsible for the message about the incident being posted, it was clear that although Nuttall was apologetic he was perhaps an untrustworthy leader.

The issue for me is about passion for politics. There is no doubt that the current UKIP main man has an impressive CV of political involvement. However, watching the interviews, the debates, the talking heads, there is no sense of passion. Where Farage could draw a crowd and speak truly of what he believed in, Nuttall’s polar opposition to the old dog is not engaging. He may not be the greatest public speaker, nor the greatest person to remember names, but the flare and enthusiasm that UKIP and its supporters had during previous campaigns seems to have fizzled away.

Will UKIP become extinct? It could be argued the party had risen from extinct-ness in the latter half of the 2000s. Though the party has been around 1993, its purpose and pledges to create an independent United Kingdom seemed to speak reason to British people by 2010 onwards. Their target? The traditional Labour red seats. And although the land hadn’t been turned purple at the last election, there is no doubt that a successful campaign of taking controls of local councils helped in creating a new political landscape which targeted issues that many traditional Labour voters felt had been ignored – that of immigration. It seemed to be their only pledge, or at least the only one which was reported, and still the other leaders in the 2017 campaign accuse UKIP of using immigration to solve the array of issues in the UK.

The country is at its limit. Once proud, green space is now occupied by new homes. There are still fears, from UKIP’s 55+ demographic (according to YouGov), that immigration is the crippling issue affecting our services. However, immigration is being tackled by the big parties – Labour saying freedom of movement will end once the UK leaves the European Union but still no concrete target on those numbers; the Conservatives also have an immigration pledge but according to one of their senior figures they don’t know when it will be achieved nor how much it will cost.

So, the issue returns back to passion. UKIP’s previous role was to demand an EU Referendum. That has now happened. Supporters appear to have moved on from the UKIP days and its clear their passion was for Nigel Farage and the supposed holy path he walked along. Those actively involved in the campaign remain passionate but from television news reports, there is an element of fear tingling in their eyes.  Mr Nuttall just doesn’t seem to do the job of Farage; he’ll say he’s not a Farage puppet but instead his own man. Yet his messages don’t seem to be sparking the debate that Farage’s once did.

UKIP has been accused of racism and all kinds; something which the party and its former leader say is untrue and a fabrication of media representation. Politics is about voting for policy but also placing faith and trust in the leader who makes those pledges. Sadly for UKIP, the passion once owned by Farage and his fans has dwindled. They may still have a purpose but just to be on the safe side, a purchase of shares in a paper mache company may be advisable.

 

 

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Budget 2013 – political sense or Whitehall washout ?

Smiling...for now. The Chancellor sets out his Budget aims.

Smiling…for now. The Chancellor sets out his budget aims.

UK Chancellor George Osborne virtually pleaded with the nation today to stay with him despite the economic gloom. And you can stay with him on Twitter as he started tweeting today; One thought he may have tweeted the budget rather than in person. In his fourth budget, Osborne declared that the UK would avoid a “triple dip” recession, despite slow sales on high streets across the UK.

The Chancellor aimed the budget at people who wanted to “work and get on”. In other words, those people who earn the money, pay tax and can afford to cope with the new budget aims.

In a range of measures announced at Westminster, Mr Osborne announced there would be more help for first time homebuyers. Taxpayers will foot the bill for the new scheme, Help to Buy, allowing buyers to put down a 5% deposit on a newly built house. 20% of the payment for the house will be through a “shared equity” loan which means the government will effectively take a “stake” in the property; The loan will need to be repaid by the borrower before the house is sold. You may ask at this point how the economy will benefit. Because of the type of loan, if the price of the home has doubled at the time of selling, then so will the loan and indeed the buyer repaying will have a larger bill to foot. However, the risk being made by the government is not knowing how many home valuations will actually decrease or stay the same rather than increase.

In other announcements, a number of mispredictions have been put right…for now. Osborne made a U-Turn on his prediction of growth in the economy. Four months ago, he stated that growth will be of 1.2% avoiding a “triple dip” recession. Today that figure was revised to 0.6%. In another misprediction, Chancellor Osborne declared that the national debt of the UK will continue to increase and not start to come down until at least 2017 – two years more than the coalition’s original estimate.

Much of the budget announcement seemed to be like a U-Turn or a road diversion, taking away emphasis of the gloom of the economy onto the positives the government see themselves as doing. The dithering on fuel duty tax came to an end at lunchtime when Osborne announced that the planned increase on the tax would be cancelled altogether. Instead the current 57.95p per litre will stay in force for two years. To put it into perspective, Osborne, who travels in government vehicles and first class with Virgin, used ordinary cars such as the Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra to connect with the ordinary voter. The good news is that if you do own a smaller engine car, the driver will be paying around £7 less. So what about the government Range Rovers and Jaguars?

Cuts to Whitehall departments will save £2.5bn which will be used for new infrastructure projects, whilst a cut to the amount of National Insurance employers pay per employee will be decreased allowing more money to be spent on providing more jobs for the 2.52 million people currently out of work.

It appears that the Chancellor has put a positive light on himself and the government, helping homebuyers, motorists and business’, however the fact still remains that the UK economy is in a very dire place. There is limited money to spend and economic predictions appear to have been miscalculated…by the man in charge of the country’s finances.

Whitehall does take the brunt of the cuts and perhaps in some areas of todays speech, there is some political sense. The leader of the opposition, Ed Miliband, made it clear that the Chancellor had promised a return to “good times” three years ago. Three years on and those promises still have not come true. But despite the misery, gloom and slow growth, there is at least some light in your local pub – George Osborne announced a 1p cut from the cost of a pint of beer this lunchtime. That’ll be 1p less on tonight’s House of Commons bar bill.