It hasn’t had much coverage, but the UK Independence Party (UKIP) this weekend scrapped its pledge to axe the inheritance tax, should it ever be in a position to do so. The news was picked up by the BBC, but most other places seem to have avoided, ignored, or buried it. That’s a shame, because it is causing a lot of problems within the party.
Over the past 36 hours, I have had both former and current party officials tell me they don’t support the idea of keeping the inheritance tax – once described by UKIP as a ‘death tax’ on middle-earners, which is correct.
Yet their new Head of Policy Mark Reckless announced that the money raised by the Treasury would be spent, under UKIP plans, to raise the pay of public sector workers. The rationale becomes more clear when you note that the party is attempting to link the plans to a ‘Leave’ vote in the European referendum: it is an attempt to get left wingers to vote to leave.
But the party only announced the plans to scrap the inheritance tax altogether in September last year. This year, in September, the party scrapped it. People may be concerned that UKIP are just saying things depending on what kind of election there is on the horizon. At least I am.
The UKIP statement says:
“£5.2 billion of the Brexit dividend UKIP had earmarked to abolish inheritance tax would now be used to end the decade long near-freeze on public sector pay. UKIP would lift the 1% cap the Conservative Government is now imposing for a further four years following George Osborne’s budget.”
But this won’t do anything for the members and supporters who have been so proud of UKIP’s pronouncements in this area before. Okay, they’re probably not going to leave the party over this, but people are seeing it as a statement of intent. A left-ward drift, the long march of ‘Red UKIP’.
I’ve spoken to the party’s leadership, and their press office about the issue, and it is clear to me that they really do think this will help lure more public sector, left-leaning voters over to the ‘Out’ camp at the European referendum. I hope they’re right, because the number of phone calls and texts I’ve received from MEPs and donors is a sign that people aren’t that happy about abandoning what they have said is one of the “core values” of UKIP for quick electoral gain.
The question is: is the European Referendum one of those huge events that you should say and do anything to win? UKIP seems to think so. I’m undecided.