UKIP’s flamboyant leadership style and the perception that it is a single-issue party have meant there has been a lack of serious media analysis of its policies - until now, perhaps.
Recent parliamentary by-election results and the party’s success in English county council elections this month have led many to take the party more seriously: but while many are aware of its well-right-of-centre views on immigration and EU membership, what are its other policies, and in particular those on housing and planning?
A study of the party’s recent manifestos shows them to be short on detail and high on rhetoric. Almost all policies are expressed in very general terms and through the prism of those same two issues: immigration and Europe.
So on planning and housing the party says this:
- UKIP believes there is a lack of democratic decision-making, with “bureaucrats” swayed by “major developers with large legal chequebooks”;
- development decisions should not be made “by EU bureaucrats and their regional agents”;
- “by controlling immigration, large areas of British countryside will not need to be destroyed by house building”;
- there should be (unspecified) incentives to bring 800,000 empty homes into use;
- “EU-inspired Regional Spacial Strategies and regional government bodies such as unelected Regional Development Agencies and Assemblies” should be scrapped;
- binding referenda should be held on major local schemes such as the building of new supermarkets;
- “return to county and district plans, and encourage major public participation” (but with no detail on how this should come about);
- the scrapping of “community bribes” and “development taxes” such as S106 agreements;
- adding to the national scheme of listed buildings by giving councils power to “locally list” properties of interest;
- scrap VAT (or UKIP’s proposed Local Sales Tax) for refurbishing listed buildings and those in conservation areas;
- “encourage local councils to build more social housing by designating areas for such housing and allowing bond issues to fund construction”;
- opposition to the HS2 high-speed rail project;
- the party promises to “fight proposals like unwanted housing developments, unwanted out-of-town supermarkets and inappropriate energy schemes like incinerators, wind and solar farms that will ruin the character of our communities”.
These pledges were in the party’s 2010 general election and 2013 local election manifestos. Together they provide a mish-mash of policies - although no less specific than, say, the Liberal Democrat’s equally broad-brush series of statements ahead of the same elections.
With the 2014 European elections almost certainly likely to produce significant UKIP successes (the issue is, after all, what it was created to campaign about), this will mean the party will have a particularly high profile just one year ahead of the UK’s next general election.
That will mean more scrutiny on very detailed issues like housing and planning will come from the media, from other political parties, and from the electorate.
Its policies will in turn have to become more specific and coherent - unless, of course, it's relying solely on Nigel Farage's personality.
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