UKIP loses policy chief and has no manifesto ahead of general election

What does the party stand for? Does it matter?

Manifestos are commonly regarded as essential documents for political parties. A manifesto sets out the intentions, reasoning and plans for what a party would do with any power it gains. Provided the party sticks to these goals, it gives the electorate the necessary information to make informed decisions when they go to the polls.

With four months until the general election, most parties have updated existing documents or set out new targets for the next parliament.

But UKIP is not among them. The party’s policy chief, Tim Aker, yesterday “stepped aside” (no one has yet admitted whether he jumped or was pushed), and senior party members have not seen “hide nor hair” of the manifesto, which was supposed to be ready at the beginning of January, according to the Times.

Meanwhile, according to one official quoted in the Financial Times, the manifesto is “just a series of bullet points”.

Maybe not having a manifesto doesn’t matter to UKIP. The party has surged ahead in the polls over recent months, grabbing a significant share of voters from both the Tories and Labour, so perhaps it is benefitting from not defining any policies.

Nonetheless, there is a high level of interest in the party’s stance on several key issues ahead of the election.

Not least because about a year ago party leader Nigel Farage publicly disowned the party’s entire 2010 election manifesto, describing it as “drivel”.

Alongside the party’s core anti-EU membership and anti-immigration policies, 2010’s 486-page document included proposals to restrict foreigners on football teams, make the Circle line a circle again, enforcing “proper dress” in theatres and hotels, make trains better looking by encouraging “a return to the glamour, grace and style of the railway companies of the past”, and introducing the same income tax level for the rich and the poor at a flat rate of 31% for all incomes over £11,500 a year.

Trouble in the ranks

While the party has maintained its EU and immigration stance, voters have far less information about current policy on areas including the economy, education, the environment, dealing with the deficit and what to do with the NHS.

Nigel Farage surprised his own party this week by saying there needs to be a fresh debate about introducing an American-style insurance system to replace the NHS.

In response, the party’s health spokeswoman Louise Bours MEP said that UKIP would reject any such system. She said: “The vast majority of UKIP members, the British public and I will always favour a state-funded NHS.”

A published manifesto would perhaps be the first step to putting a stop to in-fighting in the UKIP ranks.

According to the FT, there is a risk the party will not have agreed many fundamental points by its own conference on 27 and 28 February.

The paper quotes “one person involved”, who said that the manifesto “will be largely ready by the spring conference, but perhaps not in full written form. It is going to take a lot of hard work to get to that point though.”

UKIP’s rise, combined with soaring levels of dissatisfaction with established parties, is set to make 2015 one of the most fascinating elections in decades - and possibly the least conclusive.

As reported yesterday, trust in politicians is at rock bottom and UKIP is benefitting hugely as the numbers of alienated voters swell the party’s ranks.

But beyond policies on EU and immigration, what are people voting for?

Without the answer to this question, UKIP may struggle to turn booming support into electoral success.

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Readers' comments (2)

  • Have you tried asking Suzanne Evans?

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  • At least if Farage has any influence and later presides over a massive sell-off of the NHS, nobody will be able to accuse him of lying in his manifesto, breaking promises or making U-turns.

    Nobody will be able to say that they didn't see it coming, either, as they queue up in A & E or watch their relatives die on trollies in the corridor.

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