Back in the day of the old Soviet Union, the Socialist Workers Party had the rather evocative rallying cry of “Neither Washington nor Moscow But International Socialism.”
Perhaps UKIP should adopt an adaptation: “Neither Brussels nor London But….”.
UKIP has capitalised in these election campaigns by campaigning negatively on the issue of immigration, but to move forward it now must lay out of a positive national vision not just on Independence from the European Union but far more importantly, independence from London.
Some of the policies are already in place, but I suggest we should go much further and advocate genuine, hyper-localism as a way of achieving local autonomy and decreasing resentment of London rule.
- Most revenue collection should be set by local councils rather than centrally by the discredited Westminster parliament. Replace centrally levied VAT with a locally levied and set goods and services tax, which would allow much needed competition between local authorities.
- Shale gas is a localised resource, not a truly national one. It is extracted from the rocks beneath our feet, and creates a high volume product that is best consumed locally as well. UKIP’s policy of a sovereign wealth fund is better than HM Treasury’s predictably greedy and unimaginative response, but it is still a centrally administered solution, and anyone who remembers Gordon Brown’s raid on private pensions won’t place much store on it’s long term survival. Far better would it be to hand all mineral rights over the owners of land and give local councils power over shale taxation and planning permission. Local governments, industry, schools and universities could then partner in developing the economic infrastructure necessary, much as Aberdeen did very successfully with North Sea Oil in the 1970s. Done right, shale could revitalise some of our great Northern industrial cities and restore local pride. Let us show trust in the people by handing over control.
- Localised control of a points based immigration system. The impact of immigration is, of course, highly local. So are the skill shortages that immigration in some cases may solve. Is there therefore really any need for work visas and immigration levels to be centrally controlled? Why not let local councils set the terms and conditions for work visas rather than central government? This way, we could get much more fine-tuning of immigration that may suite the purposes of local communities, and consequently much less fear and better community relationships.
- Move to proper market in education by building on the existing academy and free school system but allowing a degree of selection according to ability to realise the UKIP goal of grammar or high quality technical schools. Even allow school chains to make profits, as Sweden has done, which has put rocket boosters under the free school movement there.
A coherent vision of local emancipation will grab the imagination of people weary of London rule far more than the rather esoteric subject of “Europe” ever will do. It is freedom and independence from London that really matters to most people, and the people are now listening to UKIP to see if we have the ideas to deliver it.