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 deputy web editor at the New Statesman.

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Is there such a thing as responsible betting?

Punters are encouraged to bet responsibly. What a laugh that is. It’s like encouraging drunks to get drunk responsibly, to crash our cars responsibly, murder each other responsibly.

I try not to watch the commercials between matches, or the studio discussions, or anything really, before or after, except for the match itself. And yet there is one person I never manage to escape properly – Ray Winstone. His cracked face, his mesmerising voice, his endlessly repeated spiel follow me across the room as I escape for the lav, the kitchen, the drinks cupboard.

I’m not sure which betting company he is shouting about, there are just so many of them, offering incredible odds and supposedly free bets. In the past six years, since the laws changed, TV betting adverts have increased by 600 per cent, all offering amazingly simple ways to lose money with just one tap on a smartphone.

The one I hate is the ad for BetVictor. The man who has been fronting it, appearing at windows or on roofs, who I assume is Victor, is just so slimy and horrible.

Betting firms are the ultimate football parasites, second in wealth only to kit manufacturers. They have perfected the capitalist’s art of using OPM (Other People’s Money). They’re not directly involved in football – say, in training or managing – yet they make millions off the back of its popularity. Many of the firms are based offshore in Gibraltar.

Football betting is not new. In the Fifties, my job every week at five o’clock was to sit beside my father’s bed, where he lay paralysed with MS, and write down the football results as they were read out on Sports Report. I had not to breathe, make silly remarks or guess the score. By the inflection in the announcer’s voice you could tell if it was an away win.

Earlier in the week I had filled in his Treble Chance on the Littlewoods pools. The “treble” part was because you had three chances: three points if the game you picked was a score draw, two for a goalless draw and one point for a home or away win. You chose eight games and had to reach 24 points, or as near as possible, then you were in the money.

“Not a damn sausage,” my father would say every week, once I’d marked and handed him back his predictions. He never did win a sausage.

Football pools began in the 1920s, the main ones being Littlewoods and Vernons, both based in Liverpool. They gave employment to thousands of bright young women who checked the results and sang in company choirs in their spare time. Each firm spent millions on advertising. In 1935, Littlewoods flew an aeroplane over London with a banner saying: Littlewoods Above All!

Postwar, they blossomed again, taking in £50m a year. The nation stopped at five on a Saturday to hear the scores, whether they were interested in football or not, hoping to get rich. BBC Sports Report began in 1948 with John Webster reading the results. James Alexander Gordon took over in 1974 – a voice soon familiar throughout the land.

These past few decades, football pools have been left behind, old-fashioned, low-tech, replaced by online betting using smartphones. The betting industry has totally rebooted itself. You can bet while the match is still on, trying to predict who will get the next goal, the next corner, the next throw-in. I made the last one up, but in theory you can bet instantly, on anything, at any time.

The soft sell is interesting. With the old football pools, we knew it was a remote flutter, hoping to make some money. Today the ads imply that betting on football somehow enhances the experience, adds to the enjoyment, involves you in the game itself, hence they show lads all together, drinking and laughing and putting on bets.

At the same time, punters are encouraged to do it responsibly. What a laugh that is. It’s like encouraging drunks to get drunk responsibly, to crash our cars responsibly, murder each other responsibly. Responsibly and respect are now two of the most meaningless words in the football language. People have been gambling, in some form, since the beginning, watching two raindrops drip down inside the cave, lying around in Roman bathhouses playing games. All they’ve done is to change the technology. You have to respect that.

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 05 February 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Putin's war