People vote (or don’t vote) for a variety of reasons, and pure logic is rarely the main one.
If rational self-interest made decisions for us, most people would vote for a party far to the left of Labour, because the personal interests of the majority of people are better served by redistributive social democracy than they are by the neo-capitalism that currently has primacy. Don’t believe me? Read Thomas Piketty (or don’t, and just take other peoples’ word for it, like most of us will).
But people don’t vote for rational self-interest, they think with their gut. The problem with thinking with your gut is: your gut has shit for brains.
But I’m the same as you: I’m just as liable to instinctive feelings as you are, and just as likely to make wrong choices.
In the coming Euro and General Elections, wrong choices will dominate. I’m talking about UKIP.
There are, of course, sound reasons for liking UKIP. You may have perfectly legitimate qualms about the EU, or rational self-interest may come in to play if your personal job is personally threatened by a person who is from Bulgaria, in person. I doubt it, but it’s possible.
And that’s fine: I’m not one to diss democracy, and I’m not going to tell you not to vote in any way you see fit. If it’s good for you, fine: do it. But please find out if it’s actually good for you first.
Because if you vote for one UKIP policy, you vote for them all.
And, with the exception of “They’re better than Labour/Tory/LibDem” (and I don’t blame you for anger) and an ill-defined “let’s get out of Europe” stance, I doubt many of you actually know what they stand for.
Well, first of all, they stand for nothing. Officially nothing. By the time you read this, that may have changed; but it should be noted that Nigel Farage denounced his own manifesto as “Junk” and dropped it in January. Right now, as I write, there’s nothing at all to replace it. They have absolutely no policies.
So what is it you’re voting for? You don’t know. They don’t know. Nobody knows!
But we can guess, based on what UKIP have said in the last month or so. Their policies appear to be as follows… and remember, if you vote for one of these policies, you’re voting for them all. So think carefully.
1: Leave Europe.
It’s unclear what’s actually meant by this, because UKIP themselves seem a little vague. But I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, and accept that they’ll find a way to simply withdraw from all agreements with the EU. They want to do this because, UKIP claim, the EU costs jobs and is undemocratic.
They’re all elected, but it’s undemocratic. That’s UKIP logic. So let’s skip past that, and get to jobs. UKIP’s own estimates are that the EU costs 500,000 British jobs.
But studies show being in the EU creates or safeguards 3,400,000 jobs in the UK – 7 times as many. According to a 2 year study by economists at the University of Southampton “2.5 million people owed their jobs directly to exports of goods and services to EU countries and a further 900,000 jobs had been created indirectly by trade with the continent.”
It’s easy to argue such speculative figures, and shout “bullshit”, but the research has to be out by 80% before it turns good for UKIP. And this research is from the same people who predicted previous loss/gain of jobs from overseas workers to within 2%, and haven’t been out by more than 5% since 1980.
Why would they be so wrong this time?
1 (b): Stay in Europe but renegotiate, in the same way Switzerland has.
UKIP occasionally say they’d do this, rather than the policy described above. It’s not something I personally support, but renegotiation to become more like Switzerland is a reasonable policy. In fact, it’s the policy of the Tory party. Of course, Switzerland only survives because of it’s banking, and we can’t have banks like that because we have international (not just EU) agreements that forbid it. But let’s skip past that.
If UKIP go down the “become like Switzerland” route, why vote for UKIP? The best they can do is exactly what the Conservatives offer. You might really hate Europe, but if you vote UKIP you get all the rest of the policies listed below. Do you want to vote for these? Really?
UKIP promise to introduce a single, flat tax rate of 31%, which would mean a tax increase for the poorest 88% of working Britons, and a tax cut for the richest 12%.
In fact, from the richest 0.5% it would mean we’d get £18 billion less in taxation each year (based on 2012 figures). But almost 90% of ordinary people would pay more.
The OBR has calculated that a flat 31% tax would see national tax revenue fall by 16% per year, which is the equivalent to three times the loss suffered in the 2007-2014 recession. A tax revenue fall this great is the equivalent to the entire national budget for the departments of education, skills, business, environment and agriculture, plus 30% of the cost of the NHS. We would have to stop funding all schools, business investment, environmental work (including flood defenses) and around 1/3 of the NHS. All of this, just to give a tax cut to the richest 0.5% of people.
Cutting payments to Europe
We currently pay £55 million per day to Europe. That’s a huge amount, but breaks down to 81p per person per day, assuming only individuals pay it. If businesses pay it as well (and they do) the personal cost to each individual is estimated at only 12p per day.
Of course, that huge UKIP figure is disputed – many say it’s much, much lower – but let’s assume UKIP’s figures are correct, and we’re all being squeezed for 12p per day.
The average UK income is £73.85 per day. The cost of Europe is 12p per person per day. For that, you get access to the world’s largest market, human rights protection, union rights, health and welfare regulations, safety at work regulations, maternity regulations, shared access to pipelines and ports and airports and resources, protection for our fishing fleets, and the ability to have a say in all of those matters.
If you want to save that 12p per day, you lose all those things. You can, of course, choose to set up your own welfare, maternity, working-rights and human-rights regulations. But those things would still cost you money, so you might only save 5p per day.
And you’d still lose direct access to the world’s largest market. Honestly: why?
Cutting fuel poverty
UKIP say they’ll do this by scrapping the “green subsidy” on bills, and cutting all investment in renewables. Let’s look at some financial facts.
- The EU takes £8.7 billion from the UK each year.
- Russia, right now, takes £26.9bn per year from the UK – 3 times as much. That’s what we spent on Russian oil in 2013. Without renewable energy, we’ll need more oil, so the money we pay to Russia would increase. Rather than spending £24 per year per bill (the average green subsidy) on investing in British fuel production, we’ll end up spending more than that to subsidise Russian fuel production.
If the EU is (as UKIP state) a drain on Britain’s balance of payments, how much more of a drain will Russia be? If we place our national output in the hands of Putin, do you really think he’ll be decent about it? Was he decent to Chechnya, or Ukraine?
Develop shale gas
Shale production in the UK so far has been literally zero. Not one cubic cm of viable, commercial gas has been extracted. It’s thought possible that there will be gas seams in Lancashire and the Home Counties – I don’t deny they may be plenty – but it’s not proven.
And even if we did extract it, the environmental costs would be catastrophic. Nigel Farage might love to spend his time in a smokey environment, but most of us would prefer to live on a planet with a functioning atmosphere. Ignoring climate change won’t make it go away. 99% of climate scientists can’t all be wrong! And the IPCC report states we have at most 5 years to stop increasing C02 emissions and start reducing them, or the entire planet is screwed.
Abolish inheritance tax
Conservative policy, since Thatcher, has said that the way to get rich is to work hard. It’s said “no hand-outs”, and has insisted we invest, build our own futures, manufacture, create, and buy your own home. It was a meritocratic, and the hardest-working, most talented, most dedicated amongst us would succeed and get rich.
We’ve spent 30 years complying, and working harder and harder (we now work longer hours than any country in Europe) and have seen our income drop in real terms by 6%, whilst the richest 0.1% of people have increase – increased – their wealth since 2010 by £450 billion.
That’s 1000 people sharing £450 billion extra since the 2007 crash.
If hard work is the way to riches, how come all the people who work hard aren’t rich, and all the people who are rich don’t work hard?
Owning stuff is how to be rich. And to own things, you have to inherit them. If person A inherits a thing, there’s no way person B can own it, because person B can never earn enough to buy it. Inheritance tax frees up assets for the next generation to earn. Locking inheritance into the system locks up assets so they never change hands, and ensures no matter how hard you work, you can never win.
Nigel Farage knows this, because Nigel Farage is a stockbroker. If he tells you cutting inheritance tax is good for you, he’s lying. Read best-selling, superstar economist Thomas Piketty, and you’ll see that there is massive evidence that I’m right. Even the Wall St Journal agrees that inheritance tax (they call it “wealth tax”, but it’s the same thing) should ideally be set at around 80%, not zero.
Abolishing inheritance tax will not help 88% of Britons. It will help the richest 0.5% quite a lot. But for most people, this policy simply helps to keep you in your place.
Politicians have been “cutting regulations” for 30 years, I’m amazed there are any left. But there still seem plenty to cut, if you believe UKIP. Cutting regulations is sold to us as the panacea for everything, because we can all imagine a grey, nasal little man called Brian, sitting in an office, slowly filling in forms and holding everyone up. But the truth is, “regulation” is just another word for law. And we all like to be protected by laws.
Brian, in his grey suit, is probably administering the law that stops people slipping horse meat into your lasagne. Would you really like that regulation to be cut?
Or a regulation that ensures drugs are tested properly before going to market (think Thalidomide)?
Or a regulation that stops banks from betting money they don’t have on sub-prime mortgages (think 2007 financial crash)?
Regulations are there to stop people ripping you off, making you sick, treating you like shit, and damaging your interests. They’re imperfect, but simply scrapping them all isn’t a plan: it’s anarchy.
Safeguard the NHS
Not easy if you’re also cutting 30% of its budget, as their flat-tax policy would do.
And research has indicated (I accept, not demonstrated, but certainly indicated) that UKIP policies to prevent immigration would cut NHS staff by 22%, because of all the nurses and ancillary staff who come from overseas: under UKIP policies they wouldn’t be able to come any more. If this had been happening for the last 25 years, the NHS couldn’t function.
Local homes for local people
If your parents and grandparents live locally, you get a priority council home. Fine… but which grandparents. I don’t know about you, but it’s normal to have four grandparents, and they aren’t necessarily from the same place. One of mine was from Manchester, two from Wales, one from Surrey. And I live in Cheshire.
Where do I collect my council house from?
And, in case you hadn’t noticed: what council houses? Another UKIP policy is to sell off all social housing, and cut spending on building more to “protect the countryside”.
So, in the UKIP universe, there won’t be any council houses, but you’ll still be able to claim one if you live in four places at once, like your grandparents did.
Well fine, but from where? Russia, again? And what will it cost to buy? I’m sorry, but in a global world with global prices, how can UKIP simply state that the cost of petrol won’t rise? Labour did that, and it bought them a political dividend, but it’s not really enforceable for any length of time.
The only way to reduce petrol costs is to find alternatives where possible, and to drive less. If we use oil for power stations, we have less to power cars, so cost goes up. But if we invest in renewables, we don’t need to use oil for power stations, and cost for petrol in your car has a chance of coming down.
And that’s it!
There are literally no other policies. None that are consistent enough to call a policy anyway. No policy on banks, or roads, or medical research, or education, or pensions, or fisheries and farming, or regional investment. Nothing.
They make odd announcements about how it’ll just “be better” in some way, but almost none of them are the same as the announcement they made the week before. I may be doing them an injustice, but we can’t be sure until there’s a manifesto. And right now, there isn’t one.
I accept that lots of parties do this. Labour have had a “policy review” since 2010, and in lots of places there’s no official policy. But UKIP have existed since 1993 – that’s 22 years – and in that time I can find no evidence of them every having a published policy on any of this stuff. Whereas with Labour, Tory or LibDem, there are, at least, large amounts of speeches on subjects, official front-bench spokesmen, previous policies etc.
UKIP have nothing.
Except for this bit
OK, it’s not a good idea to mix personality and policy. I don’t, personally, like political attacks based on comments like “Ed Miliband is so weird”. It means nothing. Ed Miliband’s teeth will not make any difference to your life, but Ed Miliband’s policies might. So ignore the teeth!
But UKIP, or rather Nigel Farage, have made great political capital out of their claims to be unlike politicians, to be above all that sleaze and political chicanery.
So, whilst I don’t like personal attacks, I feel that if a politician campaigns on moral issues (like John Major’s “back to basics” campaign) it’s fair to inspect that politicians morals and see if he’s a hypocrite.
Nigel Farage is not a man of the people. He’s a millionaire, privately-educated former-stockbroker. He’s claimed £2 million in parliamentary expenses, and refuses to let his expenses be investigated amid claims that he took £3,000 a month for running an office which was actually donated for free, and came with no running costs. He hates Europe for stealing British jobs, but employs his German wife as his assistant. He is almost hilariously hypocritical.
And he leads a party which feels it needs to say “we’re not racist”, which is (as any fule no) the prime signature of a racist. UKIP oppose gay marriage, when research shows 8% of all people are gay or bisexual.
So he’s essentially against 8% of Britons immediately.
He opposes what he insists on calling “women’s lib”, like it’s still 1970, and he would reduce maternity rights, abortion rights. And in one interview I saw recently he said he was fully in favour of women being sex workers (he loves a lap-dance) but against women being able to prosecute their husbands for rape or assault.
So he’s essentially against another 51% of all Britons immediately.
He wants to cut spending on support for disabled people, and members of his party (at the time of writing they’re still candidates) support mandatory abortion for disabled children. 12% of us will suffer a disability at some point in our life.
So he’s essentially against another 12% of Britons immediately.
We’re adding up, aren’t we: the people UKIP wants to ban.
In the EU voting block, he’s aligned to far-right parties who have claimed that mass-murdering neo-Nazi Anders Breivik was doing the right thing. And Farage leads a party which seems to attract more than it’s fair share of homophobes, disablists, sexists, racists and bigots. UKIP are frantically sacking them each time one is exposed, and at the time of writing they’re sacking more than one per day. Many are also being arrested for hate-crimes. This is a fact.
Of course, Farage himself comes across as a nice, ordinary, possibly badly-dressed guy in the pub. But then, what did you expect? Hitler? Not even Hitler was like Hitler to start with. Godwin’s law applies here, so I must be careful to remain resolutely satirical.
So instead, I will draw your attention to any number of world-famous Fascists: do you really think any of them started out jack-booting around, screaming speeches and committing war-crimes? Of course not: they started out seeming reasonable and talking to you in ways other politicians don’t. They hid their extremism behind moderate talk of how things would be better if it wasn’t for those people who are different.
And, just as with UKIP, those people were foreign, have different coloured skins, different habits, are disabled, are gay, are women, or (God forbid) a one-legged Bulgarian Lesbian Feminist Muslim. Just as with UKIP, they promise national pride and a return to greatness if only we turn back the clock on all this permissiveness, lock the door against people who look different, or have different sexuality, or are disabled.
So before you vote for UKIP, please don’t just think about Europe. Everyone knows Britain hates Johnny Foreigner – we’re an international joke for it. The Daily Mail has made it’s entire stand-up (throw-up) act about it.
So don’t just think about what you’re voting for: also think about what else you’re voting for.
And remember that the top of a slippery slope always looks like fun. But it leads down, down, down to some pretty dark places.
Thank you for reading. Please share it if you find it interesting.
For once, I’m not opening comments: if you have different opinions, start a blog. I don’t want to invite a hateful comments section.