Nigel Farage has launched Ukip's manifesto. Photo: Getty
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Ukip manifesto launch: out with the "drivel", in with the "serious"?

Ukip is launching its manifesto today, but confusion remains over some of its policies.

Ukip is launching its manifesto, which it claims contains “serious, fully-costed policies”.

Its last effort, dismissed as “drivel” by Nigel Farage, included a number of enjoyable proposals such as returning the London Underground’s Circle Line to going around in a circle, restoring the original larger size of British passports, “proper dress” for the theatre, and a dress code for taxi drivers.

In contrast, the top lines of its new programme for government are:

  • A referendum as soon as possible on Britain’s EU membership
  • Controls on immigration, and the introduction of a points-based system
  • Power for voters to recall MPs
  • An extra £3bn funding a year for the NHS
  • Taking those earning the minimum wage out of tax
  • 6,000 new jobs in the police force, prison service, and the UK border for armed forces veterans
  • Cutting the international development budget by £9bn
  • Removing stamp duty from the first £250,000 of new houses built on brownfield sites
  • Business rate cuts for small businesses
     

A manifesto with Ukip’s core values at its heart. But it has already been plagued by confusion. The immigration cap in particular has caused disagreement among Ukip’s high command.

Suzanne Evans, Ukip’s manifesto chief, revealed confusion about what constitutes skilled and unskilled migrants on the BBC’s Today programme this morning. She said that if gaps in the workforce are identified then farm labourers could come to the UK “if they are needed”.

This is in contrast to Ukip’s immigration spokesperson Steven Woolfe, who said the number of unskilled and low-skilled workers coming to this country would be “zero, ie. a moratorium, for five years”. Woolfe admitted on Sky News to a number of disagreements with Evans on Ukip’s immigration policy (which is supposed to limit skilled migrants to 50,000 a year, but not to put a cap on net migration).

Also, the Conservatives have been beavering away over the figures and point out that Ukip plans to fund 15 of its spending pledges with cuts to foreign aid, and suggest there is a “£37 billion black hole” in Ukip's spending plans.

Policy detail has never been Ukip’s forte. But nor has it been its problem. Voters don’t look to Ukip for a fiscally responsible, detailed policy plan. They look to Ukip for its tone. Its anti-Westminster establishment positioning and an anti-metropolitan elite ethos. And this all comes across clunkingly clearly in its new manifesto.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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How Theresa May laid a trap for herself on the immigration target

When Home Secretary, she insisted on keeping foreign students in the figures – causing a headache for herself today.

When Home Secretary, Theresa May insisted that foreign students should continue to be counted in the overall immigration figures. Some cabinet colleagues, including then Business Secretary Vince Cable and Chancellor George Osborne wanted to reverse this. It was economically illiterate. Current ministers, like the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Chancellor Philip Hammond and Home Secretary Amber Rudd, also want foreign students exempted from the total.

David Cameron’s government aimed to cut immigration figures – including overseas students in that aim meant trying to limit one of the UK’s crucial financial resources. They are worth £25bn to the UK economy, and their fees make up 14 per cent of total university income. And the impact is not just financial – welcoming foreign students is diplomatically and culturally key to Britain’s reputation and its relationship with the rest of the world too. Even more important now Brexit is on its way.

But they stayed in the figures – a situation that, along with counterproductive visa restrictions also introduced by May’s old department, put a lot of foreign students off studying here. For example, there has been a 44 per cent decrease in the number of Indian students coming to Britain to study in the last five years.

Now May’s stubbornness on the migration figures appears to have caught up with her. The Times has revealed that the Prime Minister is ready to “soften her longstanding opposition to taking foreign students out of immigration totals”. It reports that she will offer to change the way the numbers are calculated.

Why the u-turn? No 10 says the concession is to ensure the Higher and Research Bill, key university legislation, can pass due to a Lords amendment urging the government not to count students as “long-term migrants” for “public policy purposes”.

But it will also be a factor in May’s manifesto pledge (and continuation of Cameron’s promise) to cut immigration to the “tens of thousands”. Until today, ministers had been unclear about whether this would be in the manifesto.

Now her u-turn on student figures is being seized upon by opposition parties as “massaging” the migration figures to meet her target. An accusation for which May only has herself, and her steadfast politicising of immigration, to blame.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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