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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Who will win the Copeland by-election?

Labour face a tricky task in holding onto the seat. 

What’s the Copeland by-election about? That’s the question that will decide who wins it.

The Conservatives want it to be about the nuclear industry, which is the seat’s biggest employer, and Jeremy Corbyn’s long history of opposition to nuclear power.

Labour want it to be about the difficulties of the NHS in Cumbria in general and the future of West Cumberland Hospital in particular.

Who’s winning? Neither party is confident of victory but both sides think it will be close. That Theresa May has visited is a sign of the confidence in Conservative headquarters that, win or lose, Labour will not increase its majority from the six-point lead it held over the Conservatives in May 2015. (It’s always more instructive to talk about vote share rather than raw numbers, in by-elections in particular.)

But her visit may have been counterproductive. Yes, she is the most popular politician in Britain according to all the polls, but in visiting she has added fuel to the fire of Labour’s message that the Conservatives are keeping an anxious eye on the outcome.

Labour strategists feared that “the oxygen” would come out of the campaign if May used her visit to offer a guarantee about West Cumberland Hospital. Instead, she refused to answer, merely hyping up the issue further.

The party is nervous that opposition to Corbyn is going to supress turnout among their voters, but on the Conservative side, there is considerable irritation that May’s visit has made their task harder, too.

Voters know the difference between a by-election and a general election and my hunch is that people will get they can have a free hit on the health question without risking the future of the nuclear factory. That Corbyn has U-Turned on nuclear power only helps.

I said last week that if I knew what the local paper would look like between now and then I would be able to call the outcome. Today the West Cumbria News & Star leads with Downing Street’s refusal to answer questions about West Cumberland Hospital. All the signs favour Labour. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.