WATCH: Nigel Farage doesn't realise how terrible his own party's policies are

Uniforms for taxi drivers? Old-fashioned colours on trains? Just some of the crap UKIP included in its manifesto for the 2010 election, as revealed to Nigel Farage on the Daily Politics.

The job of making UKIP appear less like the fringe party enjoying its day in the sun that it is, and more of a serious political contender, continues to be a tricky one for Nigel Farage. As befitting a party whose key demographic is older than any other (71 percent older than 50, only 15 percent younger than 40), its website is clunky, badly-formatted, difficult to navigate, and full of out-of-date information - or, at least, that's Farage's excuse for some of the barmier policies featured on there, which include a dress code for taxi drivers and a demand that the old-style liveries from the days of National Rail be reinstated on regional train lines.

This morning's Daily Politics, with Farage as guest, tried to pin down exactly what it was that UKIP believes in. "You don't need me to tell you that Nigel Farage is UKIP’s man," said Andrew Neil. "He wants out of the EU and he’s not particularly fond of immigration - but what does UKIP stand for?"

One of the few areas where UKIP has a clear stance is defence policy, opposing cuts to the armed forces. But, UKIP also wants to cut Trident, Neil points out. "No, I'm not sure where you've got that from," a confused Farage replies. 

"Your website," Neil responds. (The video above begins from this exchange.) "It says, 'we've committed to cancelling the Trident defence'."

"That is not the case. Not the case, no. It was the case.”

"Are you going to take it off the website then?"

“When it comes to websites I’m not the expert.”

That much was obvious when the UKIP leader was asked about the party's demand for a compulsory uniform for taxi drivers ("Do we? That's news to me"). “Under the last leadership, at the 2010 election, we managed to produce a manifesto that was 486 pages long. You can quote me all sorts of bits from it I won’t know, which is why I’ve said none of it stands today and we will launch it all after the European elections.”

The thing is, Farage isn't wrong -  UKIP's website, and the party's 2010 manifesto, is filled with bizarre stuff like this. These are also the only policy positions that voters have to go on, as Farage might not like to admit. Here's a non-exhaustive list of examples:

  • "The earnings of employed people are not a legitimate target for taxation."
  • "We are unconvinced of many of the arguments behind the man-made ‘global warming’ scare."
  • "Britain and Britishness are in trouble. They are being attacked and undermined, both externally and internally. They are threatened by the European Union (EU) and corporatist Americanised pressures from without, and betrayed by misguided politically correct ideology, extremist Islam and errant nationalism from within ... The UK Independence Party wishes to remain a close friend of the United States, and deplores the rampant anti-Americanism of Continental Europe as racism."
  • "Welsh, Scottish and Irish nationalists constantly speak of their desire to be 'independent' of England. UKIP sees this as bogus independence."
  • "Regarding the Islamicisation of Britain, UKIP would ban the covering of the face in public buildings and certain private buildings."
  • "UKIP would safeguard British weights and measures (the pint, the mile etc.), which have been undermined by the EU."
  • "UKIP would support the Monarchy by replacing the media frenzy around state support by transferring sufficient amounts of Crown Estate assets back to the Crown to provide suitable income." 
  • "UKIP will encourage British designers to create a reinvigorated "British style." 
  • "UKIP would formally strike out the unhelpful verse starting with 'rebellious Scots to crush' from the national anthem. UKIP would require the UK theme medley to be restored to BBC Radio 4."
  • "The phenomena of political correctness itself has its origins in the Frankfurt School of Marxism of the 1930s."
  • "The UK Independence Party believes that a wise investment would be a 'British Ambassadorial Ship'." 
  • "UKIP will give tax relief for real ales." 
  • "The BBC and the British Film Council will have their remits altered to back films that promote British values and British talent and locations. They will not be allowed to back films that denigrate, attack or oppose British values. For example, the Film Council would not back a pro-IRA, anti-British film in ‘The Wind That Shakes The Barley’ by the Marxist Ken Loach or projects like ‘This is England’, which glorifies hooliganism."
  • "The low point for the BBC came when a former Director-General admitted the BBC was “hideously white” - a remark that is simply racist."
  • "We would welcome a return to traditional British headdress and uniforms for the police and armed forces. UKIP would also welcome the replacement of US-style baseball caps from all public services, particularly the police and armed forces, with traditional British headdress. UKIP will encourage a return to proper dress for major hotels, restaurants and theatres."
  • "British passports will return to their proper larger size and design."
  • "UKIP notes that in the 2007/8 football season, two British teams reached the European Champions League final, yet not a single British Home Nation qualified for the European Championships that same summer ... UKIP blames the EU for this ... UKIP would place a maximum of three foreign players in the starting line up."
  • "UKIP will encourage higher standards of behaviour in society, including greater politeness, courtesy, manners, not swearing in public."
  • "The patchy and biased teaching of history in schools, often very anti-British, is a major problem for a cohesive society. The issue of slavery in particular would also reflect the greater levels of trade by Arab slave traders (including the seizing of English citizens for slaves from the South West), the role of African tribes in the trade and Wilberforce‘s world leading abolition campaign. The Slavery issue has been deliberately used to undermine Britishness."

...and those are all from just the first page.

And finally, Buzzfeed today posted a quiz challenging people to guess which policies are UKIP's and which are the Monster Raving Loony Party's. It's (unsurprisingly) tricky.

I'm a mole, innit.

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Let's turn RBS into a bank for the public interest

A tarnished symbol of global finance could be remade as a network of local banks. 

The Royal Bank of Scotland has now been losing money for nine consecutive years. Today’s announcement of a further £7bn yearly loss at the publicly-owned bank is just the latest evidence that RBS is essentially unsellable. The difference this time is that the Government seems finally to have accepted that fact.

Up until now, the government had been reluctant to intervene in the running of the business, instead insisting that it will be sold back to the private sector when the time is right. But these losses come just a week after the government announced that it is abandoning plans to sell Williams & Glynn – an RBS subsidiary which has over 300 branches and £22bn of customer deposits.

After a series of expensive delays and a lack of buyer interest, the government now plans to retain Williams & Glynn within the RBS group and instead attempt to boost competition in the business lending market by granting smaller "challenger banks" access to RBS’s branch infrastructure. It also plans to provide funding to encourage small businesses to switch their accounts away from RBS.

As a major public asset, RBS should be used to help achieve wider objectives. Improving how the banking sector serves small businesses should be the top priority, and it is good to see the government start to move in this direction. But to make the most of RBS, they should be going much further.

The public stake in RBS gives us a unique opportunity to create new banking institutions that will genuinely put the interests of the UK’s small businesses first. The New Economics Foundation has proposed turning RBS into a network of local banks with a public interest mandate to serve their local area, lend to small businesses and provide universal access to banking services. If the government is serious about rebalancing the economy and meeting the needs of those who feel left behind, this is the path they should take with RBS.

Small and medium sized enterprises are the lifeblood of the UK economy, and they depend on banking services to fund investment and provide a safe place to store money. For centuries a healthy relationship between businesses and banks has been a cornerstone of UK prosperity.

However, in recent decades this relationship has broken down. Small businesses have repeatedly fallen victim to exploitative practice by the big banks, including the the mis-selling of loans and instances of deliberate asset stripping. Affected business owners have not only lost their livelihoods due to the stress of their treatment at the hands of these banks, but have also experienced family break-ups and deteriorating physical and mental health. Others have been made homeless or bankrupt.

Meanwhile, many businesses struggle to get access to the finance they need to grow and expand. Small firms have always had trouble accessing finance, but in recent decades this problem has intensified as the UK banking sector has come to be dominated by a handful of large, universal, shareholder-owned banks.

Without a focus on specific geographical areas or social objectives, these banks choose to lend to the most profitable activities, and lending to local businesses tends to be less profitable than other activities such as mortgage lending and lending to other financial institutions.

The result is that since the mid-1980s the share of lending going to non-financial businesses has been falling rapidly. Today, lending to small and medium sized businesses accounts for just 4 per cent of bank lending.

Of the relatively small amount of business lending that does occur in the UK, most is heavily concentrated in London and surrounding areas. The UK’s homogenous and highly concentrated banking sector is therefore hampering economic development, starving communities of investment and making regional imbalances worse.

The government’s plans to encourage business customers to switch away from RBS to another bank will not do much to solve this problem. With the market dominated by a small number of large shareholder-owned banks who all behave in similar ways (and who have been hit by repeated scandals), businesses do not have any real choice.

If the government were to go further and turn RBS into a network of local banks, it would be a vital first step in regenerating disenfranchised communities, rebalancing the UK’s economy and staving off any economic downturn that may be on the horizon. Evidence shows that geographically limited stakeholder banks direct a much greater proportion of their capital towards lending in the real economy. By only investing in their local area, these banks help create and retain wealth regionally rather than making existing geographic imbalances worce.

Big, deep challenges require big, deep solutions. It’s time for the government to make banking work for small businesses once again.

Laurie Macfarlane is an economist at the New Economics Foundation