I was having dinner with two close friends in a very smart restaurant in London earlier this week, neither of whom are UKIP members but could be UKIP-minded, but both for different reasons.
The question came up: in 2015, what could the UK expect if UKIP was asked to form a Government? The short answer is, well the country can be sure that we would be out of the European Union and unfettered immigration would stop, both pretty much overnight.
Then they asked: “what then?”
This is a question that all PPCs – I am the UKIP candidate for the Isle of Wight – have to be able to answer. After all, we claim with a lot of justification to be collected support from traditional Labour as well as Conservative stomping grounds. It cannot be possible, surely, that we are all in agreement.
UKIP need to ask themselves the question: do we have a credible and coherent plan for what to do next? If we cannot answer this question, we should pack up our tents.
What are our plans for healthcare, education, Trident, financial markets, culture, and transport, the environment, benefits, farming and so on? How will we really manage trade? Moreover, how are we going to pay for the reforms once we have identified them? Have we prepared cost/benefit analyses?
Critically who are going to be the ministers, and why should we trust their abilities? These are the questions that I have to answer on the doorsteps every day, and I can assure you that saying that the education system will all be sorted out with the magic wand of grammar schools and that the NHS’s problems will evaporate as soon as the matron returns just does not cut the mustard.
I also get strange looks when I tell people that EEA or EFTA, or even a NAFTA tie-up would be a better bet than the EU, the reason being that few people have heard of them, and many think that this would be a frying pan and fire scenario.
There is more sympathy with closer ties to the Commonwealth, for at least that is a body that most people have a knowledge of, but the prying mind asks me to prove that it would be a better bet, where is the evidence that we have to back up these arguments?
The cynical reader may say ‘it doesn’t matter, Iain, as we don’t have a prayer of being asked to form a Government’. This brings me back to my original dinner-mates, one of whom argued that UKIP were irresponsible because we have no chance to form a Government and were sucking votes away from the Conservatives (he is blue) and the result would be a very EU-friendly Labour Government. In other words we could effectively be campaigning for what we least want.
In my opinion, the only way that we can prevent this outcome is to prepare for Government, and have the policies, the costs and the benefits, the plans and the contingencies, the budgets and the team ready. A good place to start would be a Shadow Cabinet.
The cynic may laugh again and say ‘the probability of a UKIP Government in 2015 is precisely zero, so don’t waste your effort Iain’. To this I reply: ‘if we manage to win enough seats by being seen to a responsible hands on the levers of power, we could end up with enough seats to hold the balance of power, just like the Lib Dems today. They have all the plans in place, why don’t we?’