Farage admits there are some UKIP candidates "we'd rather not have"

After expelling a former BNP activist, the UKIP leader says the party lacks the resources to properly vet all of its local election candidates.

Nigel Farage is one of the most assured media performers in British politics, so it's worth noting a rare slip by the UKIP leader. After the party was forced to expel a county council candidate who turned out to be a former BNP activist, Farage admitted on The World At One that it lacked the resources to properly vet all of the 1,734 candidates it is standing in next Thursday's elections. 

He told the programme:

When it comes to the general election and the European elections we have put in place a very rigorous testing procedure ... I'll be honest with you, we don't have the party apparatus to fully vet 1,700 people.

Farage said that UKIP made all of its candidates sign a declaration form stating that they had never been a member of the BNP, but then added:

I have no doubt that among these 1,700 one or two will have slipped through the net that we'd rather not have had.

It is hard to think of a greater gift to UKIP's political opponents. By voting for the party are you inadvertently supporting a racist or a fascist? Don't ask Nigel Farage, he can't tell you. 

Update: With impeccable timing, here's one candidate who appears to have "slipped through the net". Anna-Marie Crampton, who is standing for the party in Crowborough, East Sussex and was photographed with Farage two weeks ago, wrote on the website Secrets of The Fed that the Second World War was began by "Zionist jews" as part of a masterplan to create the state of Israel. She said:

The Second World Wide War was engineered by the Zionist jews and financed by the banksters to make the general public all over the world to feel so guilty and outraged by the Holocaust that a treaty would be signed to create the State of Israel as we know it today.

Another comment, posted two months ago, read: 

The Rothschilds are Zionists..there is a difference between Jews and Zionists. These Psychopaths hide behind and use the Jews.

It was thanks to them that 6 million Jews were murdered in the War (along with 26 million Russians!).

UKIP leader Nigel Farage said he "didn't have the party apparatus to fully vet 1,700 people." Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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How a small tax rise exposed the SNP's anti-austerity talk for just that

The SNP refuse to use their extra powers to lessen austerity, says Kezia Dugdale.

"We will demand an alternative to slash and burn austerity."

With those few words, Nicola Sturgeon sought to reassure the people of England, Wales and Northern Ireland last year that the SNP were a party opposed to public spending cuts. We all remember the general election TV debates, where the First Minister built her celebrity as the leader of the anti-austerity cause.

Last week, though, she was found out. When faced with the choice between using the powers of the Scottish Parliament to invest in the future or imposing cuts to our schools, Nicola Sturgeon chose cuts. Incredible as it sounds the SNP stood shoulder to shoulder with the Tories to vote for hundreds of millions of pounds worth of cuts to schools and other vital public services, rather than asking people to pay a little bit more to invest. That's not the choice of an anti-austerity pin-up. It's a sell-out.

People living outside of Scotland may not be fully aware of the significant shift that has taken place in politics north of the border in the last week. The days of grievance and blaming someone else for decisions made in Scotland appear to be coming to an end.

The SNP's budget is currently making its way through the Scottish Parliament. It will impose hundreds of millions of pounds of cuts to local public services - including our schools. We don't know what cuts the SNP are planning for future years because they are only presenting a one year budget to get them through the election, but we know from the experts that the biggest cuts are likely to come in 2017/18 and 2018/19. For unprotected budgets like education that could mean cuts of 16 per cent.

It doesn't have to be this way, though. The Scottish Parliament has the power to stop these cuts, if only we have the political will to act. Last week I did just that.

I set out a plan, using the new powers we have today, to set a Scottish rate of income tax 1p higher than that set by George Osborne. This would raise an extra half a billion pounds, giving us the chance to stop the cuts to education and other services. Labour would protect education funding in real terms over the next five years in Scotland. Faced with the choice of asking people to pay a little bit more to invest or carrying on with the SNP's cuts, the choice was pretty simple for me - I won't support cuts to our nation’s future prosperity.

Being told by commentators across the political spectrum that my plan is bold should normally set alarm bells ringing. Bold is usually code for saying something unpopular. In reality, it's pretty simple - how can I say I am against cuts but refuse to use the powers we have to stop them?

Experts - including Professors David Bell and David Eiser of the University of Stirling; the Resolution Foundation; and IPPR Scotland - have said our plan is fair because the wealthiest few would pay the most. Trade unions have backed our proposal, because they recognise the damage hundreds of millions of pounds of cuts will do to our schools and the jobs it will cost.

Council leaders have said our plan to pay £100 cashback to low income taxpayers - including pensioners - to ensure they benefit from this plan is workable.

The silliest of all the SNP's objections is that they won't back our plan because the poorest shouldn't have to pay the price of Tory austerity. The idea that imposing hundreds of millions of pounds of spending cuts on our schools and public services won't make the poorest pay is risible. It's not just the poorest who will lose out from cuts to education. Every single family and business in Scotland would benefit from having a world class education system that gives our young the skills they need to make their way in the world.

The next time we hear Nicola Sturgeon talk up her anti-austerity credentials, people should remember how she did nothing when she had the chance to end austerity. Until now it may have been acceptable to say you are opposed to spending cuts but doing nothing to stop them. Those days are rapidly coming to a close. It makes for the most important, and most interesting, election we’ve had in Scotland.

Kezia Dugdale is leader of Scottish Labour.