UKIP presents itself as a “libertarian, non-racist party”, and there are umpteen articles online that present arguments one way or another about this point. Right now, it has a series of policies that sometimes embrace less government, and others than are at best neutral, and at worst hostile to it. The “ban the burkha” policy of old didn’t fit. Talk of opposing gay marriage doesn’t fit either.
Yet UKIP has tremendous potential. It is attracting Conservatives who think the government is subservient to statist agendas around the environment, or health, foreign aid and the economy. Yet it has two big risks. One is that it gets branded as “BNP-lite” by the antagonistic leftwing press. It needs to be vigilant against racism and xenophobia, and treating people according to where they are from not how they act. Its second risk is being overwhelmed by knee jerk reactions to short term issues and so attracting whimsical populist support, but scaring off more solid principled support. UKIP needs a principled base, which underlies why it makes sense to leave the EU, and I think that should come from arguing for less government and more personal responsibility.
For a start, it is utterly absurd that the country that brought principles of private property rights through common law essentially abandoned such rights in the 1940s and introduced a complex set of planning laws and restrictions that fit the Marxist central planning philosophy of the day. A welfare state that obliges all councils to find housing for everyone who lives there discourages people from moving to areas where housing cost are lower and denudes people of personal responsibility to find homes they can afford.
On the face of it, there are umpteen opportunities for UKIP to have policies that lean towards less government. It can support more serious measures to eliminate the budget deficit, that could mean making the welfare state contributory, eliminating middle class welfare in exchange for tax cuts, and getting rid of the obligation of councils to house everyone who turns up wanting a home for free. It could mean allowing people to opt out of the NHS in exchange for a tax credit, and the same with state schools. It should mean abolishing government departments and state subsidies for business. It ought to mean supporting replacing planning law with a common law based private property approach to managing the competing claims to land use, both to release more land for house building, and to protect property owners from land being taken for big private and public developments unfairly. It ought to mean free speech, opposition to press laws and opposition to people being prosecuted for jokes on Twitter. It ought to demand a repeal of the Climate Change Act, not because it opposes people choosing to recycle or minimise their CO2 emissions, but because it’s absurd for government to bind itself to policy targets that harm the economy and the population. It should embrace a more free market energy policy. It should also oppose QE and say it wont monetise public debt, and will support banking reform that embraces alternatives to fractional reserve banking.
UKIP could present a simple slogan about independence for the UK and independence for you. It would make it clear that tax increases during a recession are counterproductive, but rather the tax system should be simplified and taxes cut. It would be clear that government spending is unsustainable, and that withdrawal from the EU wont be enough to get the UK starting to pay down public debt. It would call for cuts in the welfare state, cuts in foreign aid spending, and cuts in state projects that will lose money (e.g. HS2).
It would be clear that laws and regulation need to be reformed and cut back to make it easier to do business, and to give people back personal responsibility and encourage more competition and employment. Finally, it would make the proud point that Britain was built on notions of freedom, equality before the law, property rights and the right to live your life as you see fit, as long as you respect the same in others. That means eliminating victimless laws. It means fighting the food fascists who want to regulate and tax for our own health. It also means abolishing the TV licence fee or making it a voluntary subscription only service.
It would embrace Conservative traditions of economic freedom with Liberal traditions of personal freedom, and offer a stark contrast to the nanny state embracing, environmentalist pandering, simpering soundbite based politics of the three main parties.
It wouldn’t be purely libertarian, but a good goal would be to cut the size of government to 30% of GDP, closer to Switzerland and Australia than that of France and Belgium. Such a state would run budget surpluses, dividing the proceeds between paying down public debt and cutting taxes.
You see without that sort of vision, UKIP is just a party of protest, of anger and of a bunch of kneejerk policies that go little beyond leaving the EU. It can be more, it should be more. By being a party of less government it gains more respectability and it becomes easier to answer any issue that comes up, as it will mean UKIP’s colours are nailed to the mast of supporting taxpayers and supporting freedom.
And yes…it would give me a party I could positively vote for.