"We are now parking our tanks on the Labour Party's lawn". These were the words from Nigel Farage speaking at the Ukip party conference in Doncaster.
The tanks of the 'People's Army' have long been parked on the lawn of the Conservative Party, ever since the Eastleigh by-election, where the brilliant Diane James thrashed the Conservatives into third place, but so narrowly missed out on being elected to Parliament in the Liberal Democrat stronghold. However, in my opinion, Ukip's recent focus on attempting to woo Labour voters could put years of hard work in jeopardy.
I say this, because some observers have felt that over the past six months or so, that Ukip has been covering territory usually associated with the left. One such example is the issue of the so-called 'Bedroom Tax', which is somewhat misnamed. Rather than being a tax; it's a reduction of benefits for tenants with unused rooms. From an objective point of view, Ukip's stance on this could seem rather contradictory. If on the one hand, the party is critical of the bloated welfare state and pledges to reduce borrowing, does it not look rather hypocritical to oppose a policy which originally was put in place in order to cut welfare spending? A better angle would have been to highlight the pitiful amount of cash this policy would save - £100 million or so - and to focus on how Ukip would have cut both government debt and the deficit by further streamlining the public sector and making welfare spending more efficient.
Another example was met with gasps of disbelief among the more 'libertarian' wing of the party after Ukip's Economics spokesman Patrick O'Flynn called for an additional VAT rate in the form of a 25% "luxury sales tax" at the Doncaster conference. When it became clear that O'Flynn wanted to impose it on shoes that cost more than £200, my jaw dropped. My first thoughts were that most decent pairs of shoes cost £200 plus these days - and I felt vindicated in my views when two of Ukip's national executive members Mick McGough and Tom Bursnall voiced their opposition.
Mick McGough light-heartedly posted on Facebook saying:
"Only a wearer of poor cheap shoes would propose a new tax on good ones".
While Tom Bursnall said:
"The 2015 manifesto will show people where we are going as a party. The direction is for lower, flatter and simpler taxes. Naturally there are a handful of folk within the party that think we need to balance out hard line tax cutting agenda with a bit of red meat for the Labour inclined voter. I don't buy that".
He went on:
"As the likes of Tebbit showed us in the 80's - you can appeal to Labour's baseline support with common sense policies in law and order, immigration, and Europe. You don't need to soak the wealth creators in the process. Our policy spokesman and women are free to float ideas to our members - this does not mean it will make it into the manifesto".
When asked how members should interpret O'flynn's comments - Bursnall replied:
"The freedom we afford our spokesmen at conference is in many ways more refreshing than the stage managed cesspits of the Labour and Tory party conferences. However, anyone unclear of where we stand as a party only needs to go to our website. The first paragraph of our "where we stand" page tells you everything you need to know".
Thankfully only two days later on the Andrew Marr show, Nigel Farage also said that this will never become Ukip policy while he was party leader.
The two examples I cited do send out a 'politics of envy' message which plays to people's most basic instincts and plays the 'bourgeoisie' against the 'proletariat' in classic divide and rule politics.
However, I believe that the likes of Nigel Farage, Steven Woolfe and Diane James reject this statist form of politics. Woolfe, for instance, has pitched his positive vision for an ethical migration policy, "where an appropriately qualified Indian doctor has the same right to apply to work in Britain as an appropriately qualified German doctor". That is the right and proper meritocratic stance to take on migration.
The sound MEPs I mentioned seem to have the understanding that this is not merely a shallow populist and reactionary revolution, but a revolution with deep thought, based on the right political philosophy. This is the only way Ukip can distinguish itself from the current establishment - whereas if they start playing the same political game as the rest, it will do them no favours.
Ukip are on track on become an all-out political force in British politics - the likes of which this country hasn't since the birth of the Labour Party. But what it must emphatically not do is try to be all things to everyone. It needs the simple message of Liberty, Prosperity and Democracy. This message appeals to decent, ordinary, hardworking people who want to work, who want to better themselves and who want to get government out of their lives and keep more of what they earn. This type of person is found in both working class Labour voters and middle class Tory voters. If Ukip can win over these voters, the party will become the true voice of Britain and will rise above the fictitious class divide.Suggest a correction