What a Eurosceptic Wants: The Policy Preferences of CyberKippers
UKIP is a racist party. UKIP is a single issue, protest party which is both a 'one man band' and coalition of fruitcakes and loonies. It is a party of disillusioned Tories. Of non-voters. Of working class types.
It is all of these often contradictory statements, as far as the media and political classes are concerned. But what it is not, or at least so you'd think from all the press coverage: a party of considered, libertarian-minded democrats.
The media has been quick to press Nigel Farage on all his policies for everything else, conveniently forgetting that none of the other major political parties have disclosed their manifesto commitments for the 2015 General Election. But that's okay, right? It's Farage. We make up the rules on the fly for his lot.
While all that is occurring on TV screens and in newspaper columns, cyberkippers (UKIP supporters with computers) are debating what platforms the party should stand on at the next election. Journalists would do well to plug into these conversations that are taking place in web forums and on Facebook: they reveal a depth to your average kipper that often goes unreported.
If Reddit is a good measure of what a cyberkipper wants – and for the sake of this article I'm going to go ahead and claim it is – then the party is full of localist, libertarian, pot-smokers (or pot-smoker sympathisers... either is fine by me).
In a discussion forum from yesterday, awkwardly-named user Cameron94 said he wanted:
An emphasis on localism, and a dramatic distribution of powers from Westminster to local councils;
Constitutional and democratic reform- open primaries, citizen initiatives, local and national, a more democratic House of Lords, AV voting system, and a massive hand over of powers from number 10 and the Cabinet to Parliament;
More legalizing of items or drugs that the current government seems to be complacent in holding from people, like drugs and handguns;
Emphasis on a federal UK structure as to preserve the union and help to establish more of an English identity;
A pro independent school structure with a good emphasis on grammar schools;
Dramatic reform to NHS and welfare services, encouraging less bureaucracy, more accountability and incentives for those to have their own personal health care accounts like they do in Singapore to encourage responsibility and consumer choice in the health care service;
Tax cuts of most kinds, including abolishing inheritance tax and most green levies.
Other users were quick to agree. PeaSouper said he wanted a "Flat tax and a commitment to a dramatically reduced size of government" and ShitLordXurious (don't you just love the internet?) said he wanted to see "a statement about protecting civil liberties and privacy. A defence of net neutrality, and a repeal of Cameron's ridiculous internet censorship."
It all sounds pretty good so far.
General Scruff, who has the denomination "Tory Boy" next to his name says the following would make him "move over to [UKIP] fully":
- Appointed House of Lords but subject to greater scrutiny, with the aim of making the Lords only able to suggest changes, rather than block bills;
- Legalisation of handguns for those with licenses;
- Reforms to the health and welfare services aimed at cutting bureaucracy, even at the cost of 'consumer choice', much of the bureaucracy is to do with the internal market and such. I do think this is one area where market forces are better not to intervene;
- Grammar schools to be brought back;
- Nuclear power in place of coal and oil to reduce our dependency on foreign energy and make us a net exporter of oil once again;
- Defence cuts to be reversed, spending back up to 2004 levels, with an emphasis on more flexible options;
- Civil liberties as understood by 'common law' to be enshrined as the most important thing in our country.
Suddenly it doesn't seem like UKIP is pandering to "racists, homophobes, misogynists, little Englanders" etc etc, does it?
The party is making inroads into 'conservative at heart, with a libertarian streak' territory – just the sort of live and let live philosophy that the Conservatives used to stand for under Margaret Thatcher: the woman who helped bury the Labour Party deep into irrelevance for nearly two decades.
No wonder Miliband and Cameron are terrified: Maggie's back.
Oh and in case you didn't get it, the picture is taken from Christina Aguilera's 1999 hit single: What a Girl Wants.