During the countdown to this year general election, one party has repeatedly stood out for its controversial policies and leader: charismatic lizard look-alike Nigel Farage. That party is UKIP. The UK Independence Party lies on firmly on the right wing of the British political spectrum, as evidenced through the numerous Tory defectors to UKIP over the past year. However, unlike the Conservative Party’s patriotism, which manifests itself in arguably more discreet forms, UKIP have been unapologetic in their support for Britain and British values. Whilst throughout the election process these views have become synonymous with fascist beliefs, that is not to suggest that UKIP’s primary motive for power is rooted in expelling all immigrants from the country nor isolating the UK from global networks.
Indeed, as part of their 2015 manifesto pledge UKIP have stated that they will ‘cut the foreign aid budget by £9 billion a year’. This, in itself as a statement may appear to be part of the hullabaloo surrounding the party’s more right wing views. But this isn’t a call for scrapping foreign aid for those who need it. Rather, they have chosen to prioritise sending aid for disaster relief such as to the people of Nepal after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit them last week. Further to this, UKIP have also asserted their wish for the rest of their foreign aid budget to be allocated into schemes which provide basic health and sanitation to less privileged nations, in the form of water and inoculation against preventable diseases such as the polio virus. Such a policy highlights that despite their reputation for despising all that is not considered traditionally British e.g. white, male and cisgendered, they do not wish to completely discard the needs of those living outside Britain.
On the other hand, I would not attempt to argue that UKIP are not focused on reducing the amount of immigration to the UK. As part of their manifesto pledge they have declared that they plan to reduce the amount of skilled labour entering the country to 50,000 migrants per year and introduce a 5 year ban on all unskilled migrants entering the country. There is no debate that these policies mark a stark and somewhat extreme change to our country’s current policy towards immigration, which does not have a cap on those allowed to enter the country. To put UKIP’s plan into context, in 2014 net migration to the UK was 243,000 people, and hence this will reduce by 193,000 under a UKIP led government.
As UKIP’s stance on immigration has dominated many of the headlines in mainstream news across the country. Their approach to the NHS and Education has thus been neglected. They have stated that they wish to contribute £3 billion more annually into the NHS, which the majority of people would agree it desperately needs. We all benefit from having free health care, and UKIP aim to fund the inclusion of 20,000 more nurses, 8,000 GPs and 3,000 midwives to the service, as well add a further £1.2 billion into the social care system. Farage has also pledged to finally abolish the frankly ludicrous 5% VAT rate added to female sanitary towels and tampons. UKIP equally appear to be extending an olive branch to the students of Britain, or at least some of them. Whilst, they are not purporting to scrap tuition fees entirely (like the Green Party), they have pledged to do so for students studying Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths and Medicine.
The UK Independence Party and their beer swigging, cigar puffing leader are not perfect and indeed could be described as a well-varnished BNP. But everyone is entitled to their own views, and some of Farage’s have merit. We live in a democracy and if UKIP’s policies support your own views, by all means use your vote to support them. However, as a democratic nation we should all be reminded that the policies of the few will dictate the lives of the many and hence we should all also be aware of the implications every party’s policies will have on people not necessarily like us.
Words by Issy Marcantonio
Note: This piece was constructed on the basis of balance in our coverage of the General Election and does not necessarily reflect the views of the author.