Ukip has finally showed its hand on its 2015 election manifesto. Photo: Getty
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Why Ukip's new manifesto ideas are worrying

How many of their new, worrying ideas make it through to the final manifesto will be key in setting the tone of an undoubtedly aggressive campaign by Ukip.

After months of skirting around the question, we’ve been given a good glimpse of what Ukip’s 2015 general election manifesto will look like.

In an interview with Prospect magazine, Tim Aker, Ukip MEP for the Eastern Counties and head of the party's Policy Unit, has shown a hand that, though not unexpected, should be of genuine concern to liberal-minded voters.

First, the good news. Following a line reminiscent of the Liberal Democrat pledges at the time of the last general election, Aker says that his party “want to take low earners out of income tax altogether" with "no tax on the minimum wage”.

So far so liberal from the man charged with writing Ukip's manifesto. However, under the guise of wanting “flatter, simpler and lower taxes”, Akers goes on to say that Ukip will promise to increase the level at which the 40p income tax rate begins to £45,000, and no higher rate will exist – ie. the current top rate of income tax will be abolished completely.

We can debate whether or not this move is regressive all we like, but it doesn't change the fact that if you want to tackle inequality through tax reform Ukip would do much better to focus on evidently regressive taxes such as VAT and council tax, of which there is no mention in Aker’s interview.

More worryingly – and this is something that does seem to fall at a more obvious point on the left/right spectrum – is that “foreign aid is an obvious target” for cuts that Ukip are looking to make to reduce the deficit.

With a target spend of only 0.7 per cent of GDP for 2013-14, this shows a clear misconception of how big an impact cutting official development assistance could have on the nation’s finances, not to mention the good it does overseas.  As of 2010, nearly half the world's population were surviving on less than $2 a day. Less than one penny in every pound of government money is a small price to pay for alleviating this suffering plus, after National Audit Office and House of Lords Committee reviews over recent years, there is now more scrutiny to ensure our aid is spent more effectively.

Further plans to shrink parts of the Department of Energy and Climate Change and Business Innovation and Skills will apparently be independently reviewed, but “not by the OBR [Office for Budget Responsibility]”.

But it is welfare reform where the Ukip plans really put them further to the right of a lot of Conservatives. (Bar a commitment to scrap the relatively unpopular ‘Bedroom Tax’, which might be driven by popular sentiment than anything else.

Under a Ukip government, the benefit cap would stay and child benefit would be limited to two children. Not so radical, until you read about Ukip's plans for immigrant benefit claimants. Aker says the 2015 manifesto will include commitments to the effect that “new migrants to this country will not be eligible for any welfare benefits until they have been paying tax and national insurance for five years.”

A lot can happen in five years. Perfectly skilled, hard-working migrants could find themselves out of a job through no fault of their own. Over such a long period, its not unlikely that this will happen at some stage, but UKIP plans to deny them access to the same safety net they would provide for British born workers.

As well as a plan to increase the strength of the border force, Aker says that to come to the UK “you must show that you have been working in that profession for 12 of the last 24 months, that you can speak English and that you won’t need tax credits.”

You can almost hear foreign companies crying out to invest in UK business under such conditions, while their most talented new employees wouldn't have a hope of relocating either.

Aker’s policy hints do at least suggest that Ukip is looking to draw bolder distinctions between itself and the main three parties. This is particularly stark in his criticism of the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act, which Aker says was “rushed through” parliament after receiving support from the Tories, Labour and Liberal Democrats alike. The Ukip pledge of a “complete review of it and the rebalancing of what level of intervention the security services can have in our lives” is an open challenge to them on that front.

“We’re beyond left-right” insists Aker. Even if that’s so, it doesn't make the manifesto he’s drawing up wise, and how many of these ideas actually make it through to the final manifesto will be key in setting the tone of what will undoubtedly be an aggressive campaign by Ukip.

Justin Cash is a reporter at LegalWeek and tweets @Justin_Cash_1

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The clever ideological trick that could save the Labour party

The Co-operative party could suddenly get a lot more popular. 

It’s do or die for the party’s moderate MPs, who have lost the fight for the soul of Labour and must quickly move on. 

The 172 Labour MPs who backed a no-confidence vote in Jeremy Corbyn earlier this year may not like their newly elected party leader much, but they loathe John McDonnell. 

So it is little surprise that one of them, John Woodcock, reportedly looked “sick to the stomach” when the Shadow Chancellor tenderly invited him for a cuppa in his office following the leadership election result at conference. Reading the tea leaves tells me those talks aren’t going to go well.  

Yet moderate MPs would do well to revisit McDonnell’s off-the-cuff comments from a few years back: “I’m not in the Labour party because I’m a believer of the Labour party as some supreme body or something God-given or anything like that,” he told a small audience in 2012. “It’s a tactic. It’s as simple as that. If it’s no longer a useful vehicle, move on.” 

Two feather-spitting former frontbenchers called for McDonnell’s resignation when these comments emerged in March, saying they revealed his Trotskyist tendencies. "The context (a hard-left gathering) and the company (which included Gerry Downing, expelled from Labour for his comments on 9/11) didn’t make for great publicity, no," a Leader’s Office staffer privately confesses. 

But McDonnell is right: There is nothing necessary, natural or divinely ordained about Labour’s existence lest it can get things done. Which is why the parliamentary Labour party cannot botch its next attempt at power. 

In the wake of Corbyn’s re-election, Labour MPs face a fork-in-the-road: fight this civil war until its bitter end - play the long game, wait until Labour loses the next general election and challenge Corbyn again - or start afresh. 

It is a bleak, binary choice, akin to a doctor delivering test results and declaring the illness is terminal as feared: the patient can go down fighting and die a slow death, notwithstanding a medical miracle, or instead take part in a pioneering new drug trial. This carries the risk of dying immediately but promises the possibility of life as well. Both options are fraught with danger.

The problem with the first option is that moderates have all but lost the party already. A poll reveals Corbyn won 85 per cent - 15 per cent among members who joined after he became party leader and lost 37 per cent - 63 per cent among those who were members of the party before the last general election. The result: victory by 119,000 votes. 

Corbyn has already announced he wants to give these foot soldiers far greater firepower and told Andrew Marr he had asked the NEC to draft plans for increasing the membership and including it in “all aspects of party decision making”. Labour is transitioning apace into a social movement: free of formal hierarchy and ambivalent about parliamentary power. 

So why wait until 2020? There is every chance that MPs won’t any longer have the power to challenge to Corbyn within four years’ time. If Momentum has its way with reselection and shadow cabinet elections, leading rebels may not be around to begin with. 

Even if MPs mount another leadership challenge, few believe organisations like Saving Labour or Labour First could put together a sizeable enough electorate to outgun Corbyn at the ballot box. He would be voted back in by a landslide. 

The alternative is for MPs to create a new centre-left force. The main plan under consideration is to join the Cooperative party, Labour’s sister party, and sit as a bloc of “double hatted” MPs, with their own policy agenda on Brexit and the economy. This new bloc would apply to the Speaker to become the official opposition. 

Plenty of MPs and members recoil at the idea of a semi-split like this because of the mixed message it would send to voters on the doorstep. "So you don’t have faith in Corbyn, but you’re a Co-op MP campaigning on behalf of his Labour?" Many believe a full-split would be worse. They fear being pitted against Corbyn-backed Labour candidates in local constituencies and splitting the left vote, opening the door to Ukip or the Conservatives in marginal seats. 

But if moderate MPs mean what they say when they warn of total electoral wipeout in 2020, risking a new centre-left grouping is intuitively worth it.  What do they have to lose? And how many more times can Labour’s moderates cry wolf - Labour "risks extinction", Sadiq Khan said yesterday - until voters call their bluff and tell them to quit complaining and fall in line behind their leader? 

While Corbyn’s polling remains disastrous, a Co-op/Labour party would boast a mandate of 9.3m people, a policy agenda in line with Britain’s political centre of gravity and a chance of becoming the official opposition: a risk worth taking in the face of electoral oblivion. 

A handful of battle-bruised MPs are talking about coming together. "Time to unite," a deflated Hilary Benn tweeted this weekend. There is a precedent for this: first past the post means the party has always been composed of uneasy coalitions of different groups - take the trade unionists, liberal cosmopolites and ethnic minorities of the New Labour years - and it is arguably no different now.  

Yet this is not about a coalition of diverse interests. It is about two parties within a party, each of which believes Labour is their rightful inheritance. Of the two, moderates are least likely to gain anything by engaging in an all out war. It is time they took a leaf out of McDonnell’s book and accepted it is time, regrettably, "to move on". 

Gabriel Pogrund is a journalist at The Sunday Times and a Google News Fellow 2016.