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Theresa May is delivering the Ukip 2015 manifesto

The prime minister is committed to leaving the EU, stopping immigration, bringing back grammar schools, and other familiar policies.

If you thought Theresa May’s government was Ukip-lite in rhetoric, just take a look at its policies. The Prime Minister is essentially delivering the top lines of the Ukip 2015 manifesto.

A source involved in writing Ukip’s general election manifesto admits to me that the Prime Minister has “very much shot the Ukip fox” – citing grammar schools, and her “direct approach to the markets and controlling immigration.”

Can that be true? And, if so, does it explain why Ukip foundered in Stoke? When visiting the constituency ahead of the by-election, it was clear that rerunning the EU referendum was central to the party’s campaign – and it didn’t work. Ukip appears to be losing traction with voters because the Conservative government is already delivering its key policies. Why vote for a party pledging policies that are already being implemented?

I looked back at Ukip’s 2015 manifesto to find out how much the Tories have borrowed:

The EU

What Ukip pledged:

“Leave the EU.”

What Theresa May’s doing:

She is taking Britain out of the EU.

Immigration

What Ukip pledged:

“Take back control of our borders.”

What Theresa May’s doing:

Immigration control is a “red line” for the Prime Minister, who, by taking the UK out of the single market, is clearly prepared to take the financial hit in order to bring down the number of migrants.

What Ukip pledged:

“End welfare tourism with a five-year embargo on benefits for migrants.”

What Theresa May’s doing:

The Prime Minister is using Brexit to pursue the idea, first mooted by David Cameron, of stopping newly arrived migrants from the EU claiming tax credits and other in-work benefits. This would bring them into line with the welfare rights of non-EU migrants.

What Ukip pledged:

“Introduce a new visa system for workers, visitors, students, families and asylum seekers.”

What Theresa May’s doing:

In October last year, May ordered a cabinet taskforce to draw up plans for a new “targeted visa system”, tasking ministers with coming up with a scheme to cut migration numbers but ensure the UK isn’t left with a shortage of workers.

NHS

What Ukip pledged:

“End ‘health tourism’ by making sure those ineligible for free NHS care pay for treatment.”

What Theresa May is doing:

Jeremy Hunt’s new law forces hospitals to deny non-emergency treatment to any “foreign patient” who cannot produce identity documents proving their right to free care. Such patients who are not eligible for free, non-emergency treatment will be charged upfront – NHS staff will be issued with credit card readers to take payments before beginning treatment.

Education

What Ukip pledged:

“Bring back grammar schools.”

What Theresa May’s doing:

She’s bringing back grammar schools. In his Budget, the Chancellor Philip Hammond is setting aside £320m for expanding the government’s free school programme, which can now include selective education.

Energy

What Ukip pledged:

“End subsidies for wind farms.”

What Theresa May’s doing:

Because of lack of government funding, investment in renewables looks to fall 95 per cent over the next three years.

It wasn’t May’s policy, but she is carrying on with the decision to end onshore wind subsidies, and also slashing subsidies for other renewable energy sources. She even nearly pulled the plug on the Hinkley C nuclear power project.

What Ukip pledged:

“Support ‘fracking’ for shale gas.”

What Theresa May’s doing:

Theresa May was already a fracking fan before she became PM, having voted against an 18-month fracking ban and additional regulation. Indeed, she has changed fracking policy to include a new fund that could deliver as much as £10m to each community where wells are sited. A policy leading to accusations that she’s trying to “bribe and silence” the public into accepting fracking.

Economy

What Ukip pledged:

“Allow British businesses to choose to employ British workers first.”

What Theresa May’s doing:

The Home Secretary Amber Rudd tried to bring in a law by which businesses would have to publish lists of their foreign-born workers, but it was met with such hostility from employers that the government u-turned on the idea.

What Ukip pledged:

“Raise the personal tax allowance to at least £13,000, taking those on minimum wage out of tax altogether.”

What Theresa May’s doing:

This one dates back to the Lib Dems in coalition, but the Prime Minister is continuing it with gusto – Hammond increased the tax-free income threshold in the Autumn Statement last year; the personal allowance will rise £500 to £11,500 for the 2017-18 tax year.

Foreign affairs

What Ukip pledged:

“Foster closer ties with the Anglosphere.”

What Theresa May’s doing:

The Prime Minister’s lack of criticism of Donald Trump, particularly the Muslim travel ban, caused dismay among many who believe she is appeasing the authoritarian and racist policies of the new US President.

Justice

What Ukip pledged:

“Insist on there being one law for all – British law.”

What Theresa May’s doing:

She has vowed to take the UK out of the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.

Welfare

What Ukip pledged:

“Limit child benefit to two children for new claimants.”

What Theresa May’s doing:

OK, again, not her policy, but she’s carrying on with it – child tax credits and the child benefit through universal credit is now capped at two children for any new claimant after 6 April 2017.

***

There are plenty more proposals in that manifesto that have not yet found a home in government. Policies Theresa May could yet nick include:

Abolishing inheritance tax.

An Australian-style points-based system for immigration.

All migrants and foreign visitors to have their own health insurance.

Stopping child benefit being paid to children who don’t live here permanently.

Ending sex education in primary schools.

Restrict the Right-to-Buy and Help-to-Buy schemes to British nationals.

Repealing the 2008 Climate Change Act.

Scrapping our opt-in to the European Arrest Warrant.

Give a national referendum on the issue of greatest importance to the British public every two years on the most popular petition with over two million signatures.

Ending the use of multilingual formatting on official documents.

Pulling funding from public bodies promoting multiculturalism.

It seems both the country and Ukip would benefit from May finding a different source for her policy-making.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

Ukip's Nigel Farage and Paul Nuttall. Photo: Getty
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Is the general election 2017 the end of Ukip?

Ukip led the way to Brexit, but now the party is on less than 10 per cent in the polls. 

Ukip could be finished. Ukip has only ever had two MPs, but it held an outside influence on politics: without it, we’d probably never have had the EU referendum. But Brexit has turned Ukip into a single-issue party without an issue. Ukip’s sole remaining MP, Douglas Carswell, left the party in March 2017, and told Sky News’ Adam Boulton that there was “no point” to the party anymore. 

Not everyone in Ukip has given up, though: Nigel Farage told Peston on Sunday that Ukip “will survive”, and current leader Paul Nuttall will be contesting a seat this year. But Ukip is standing in fewer constituencies than last time thanks to a shortage of both money and people. Who benefits if Ukip is finished? It’s likely to be the Tories. 

Is Ukip finished? 

What are Ukip's poll ratings?

Ukip’s poll ratings peaked in June 2016 at 16 per cent. Since the leave campaign’s success, that has steadily declined so that Ukip is going into the 2017 general election on 4 per cent, according to the latest polls. If the polls can be trusted, that’s a serious collapse.

Can Ukip get anymore MPs?

In the 2015 general election Ukip contested nearly every seat and got 13 per cent of the vote, making it the third biggest party (although is only returned one MP). Now Ukip is reportedly struggling to find candidates and could stand in as few as 100 seats. Ukip leader Paul Nuttall will stand in Boston and Skegness, but both ex-leader Nigel Farage and donor Arron Banks have ruled themselves out of running this time.

How many members does Ukip have?

Ukip’s membership declined from 45,994 at the 2015 general election to 39,000 in 2016. That’s a worrying sign for any political party, which relies on grassroots memberships to put in the campaigning legwork.

What does Ukip's decline mean for Labour and the Conservatives? 

The rise of Ukip took votes from both the Conservatives and Labour, with a nationalist message that appealed to disaffected voters from both right and left. But the decline of Ukip only seems to be helping the Conservatives. Stephen Bush has written about how in Wales voting Ukip seems to have been a gateway drug for traditional Labour voters who are now backing the mainstream right; so the voters Ukip took from the Conservatives are reverting to the Conservatives, and the ones they took from Labour are transferring to the Conservatives too.

Ukip might be finished as an electoral force, but its influence on the rest of British politics will be felt for many years yet. 

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