The People's Army in the form of UKIP swept across Essex during the last week gaining council and MEP seats at a phenomenal rate. The party made significant gains within Essex Councils including Castle Point, Basildon and Southend which has led to these councils changing from Conservative to no overall control.
Having gained a total of 21 seats comprising 5 in Southend-on-Sea, 11 in Basildon and 5 in Castle Point the party then went on to win 3 MEP seats in the European Election.
Whilst most of the main parties state that the rise in popularity of UKIP can be attributed to a "protest vote" designed to force the main parties to act on the concerns of the people, it would seem that many thousands of voters are tired of what they perceive as broken promises and lack of action in two main areas - Immigration and the EU.
What's even more interesting is that UKIP does not at this stage have a set manifesto but seems to have identified very accurately these two issues of major concern, sufficient to achieve results in elections not seen for 100 years by an insurgent party.
Throughout the UKIP election campaigns the party was subject to a massive smear campaign across social media, the press, outside venues where UKIP supporters were holding meetings and even had bricks and excrement sent to their main office via their Freepost facility. Variously accused of racism and xenophobia the insults seemed to provide a negative marketing program running alongside UKIP's own campaign. The more insults they got, the more their numbers grew.
I don't think there can be anyone post these elections who can do other than take this party seriously and for those of us with businesses in Essex it might be a good idea to speculate that UKIP's influence is here to stay. If we accept this, we have to look at how our businesses are likely to be affected.
Dispelling the myth about UKIP's Immigration Policy
From what I have seen and heard there are many people who believe that UKIP is anti-immigration. This is actually not true - UKIP seeks controlled immigration and within the next few months will be producing a fully detailed manifesto. Likely to be included is an immigration policy that is based on the Australian system whereby skilled workers will be encouraged and students too because overseas students bring in substantial revenue. The skilled workers allowed into the UK will be calculated on need in the sense that currently there are many British skilled tradespeople such as electricians, plumbers, carpenters and builders who are out of work because migrant workers will undertake this work at cheaper rates. So UKIP will look at how many of these tradespeople already exist and if there are more than sufficient to undertake the work necessary in the UK, no more will be permitted entry until such time as there is a need. And this will apply across the broad spectrum of skills.
Some migrants are working below the national minimum wage and some in the black economy. For those people it is more likely that they send the bulk of the money they earn back to their families who are residing in the countries from whence they came. This means that they are not actually contributing much to the overall economy. UKIP has suggested that they may introduce a flat rate tax although this has not yet been confirmed. No one is blaming migrant workers for this state of affairs and indeed the current government is introducing stricter fines for companies that do not pay the minimum wage.
Hence the effect of having less migrant workers available in Essex may cost a few more pennies in employing British workers but will start to reduce the rate of unemployment in the area, not to mention boost the economy. It should be noted that UKIP will not be sending any migrant workers already working in the UK home.
UKIP hopes to control immigration by matching applications from migrant workers to skills that are actually required in the UK.
Leaving the European Union
There is dissatisfaction in the way that the EU operates not just in the UK but also in other European states. Notably Marine Le Pen of the National Front won 25% of the vote in the French EU elections and other populist parties made significant gains in Greece, Denmark and even in Germany.
It is clear that many thousands of people are not happy with the current EU model and one has to understand how the EU operates in order to appreciate how undemocratic it is. For example, David Cameron seeks to reform the EU but to achieve this he would have to get up to 27 other states on his side to push any type of reform through.
If you take into account the diversity of cultures that have been built over many thousands of years it's not difficult to understand why some nation states might find certain things wholly unacceptable whereas others wouldn't be worried about them at all. So to push reform through requires in most cases unanimous approval of the other states and it's unlikely that they would all agree. Angela Merkel, the German Prime Minister has already stated that she would not be supportive of David Cameron in the reforms he wants to push.
The politics of fear
UKIP has been accused of promoting the politics of fear in stating that thousands of Eastern European workers may be on their way to the UK to steal our jobs. Nick Clegg on the other hand states that if Britain leaves the UK, thousands will lose their jobs so one wonders who is promoting the most fear.
The reality is that Britain signed up to the Common Market to benefit from trade deals within the EU. What we didn't sign up for was political union, rendering our own government practically useless unless it can get the support of other nation states. We might ask ourselves what is the point of having our own government considering the lack of power it now has.
Being outside of the EU will not put Britain in isolation which is a favourite statement emanating from all main parties except UKIP. Norway, Iceland and Switzerland are still trading within the EU without actually being members of it to name but a few, and there is no reason why Britain can't negotiate its own deals in much the same way as these countries do.
Cutting EU red tape will save billions
Red tape emitting from the EU is strangling British businesses according to a report commissioned by David Cameron.
6 British business leaders compiled the report and made in excess of thirty recommendations to decrease regulation which would in turn promote UK economic growth including regulations relevant to the gas shale industry, environment, limits on working hours and maternity leave. The recommendations in the report would make a total saving of £2.3 billion for British companies.
According to Jose Manuel Barroso, the President of the EU, they have already eliminated 5,590 acts during the past 5 years so it begs the question does the EU really know what it is doing when it passes laws and then scraps them? I wonder how much the administrative cost of all that was?
Britain is the 6th largest economy in the world and it is a fact that governments do not trade, companies do. So for example, does anyone really believe that Germany will stop selling us their cars if we leave the EU? Or European companies will stop trading with us? It's nonsense to imagine that we can't forge out our own lucrative trade contracts on mutually beneficial terms. Other countries are able to do it so why not us? I look forward to seeing the UKIP Manifesto when it is published in a few months' time.
What is to stop us forming our own freedom of movement contracts with certain countries? If the EU has been able to do it, so can we.
Essex business owners and entrepreneurs are some of the best in the country and usually we would all have the confidence in our abilities to negotiate the best deals and contracts. Is there anything so different about doing that outside of the EU? Especially when it will save the country over £55 million per day in membership fees!
I came across a very interesting documentary made by a Dutch film maker whilst writing this article and I believe everyone should watch it before having preconceived ideas about the EU. Comments always welcome.