Economics/Class Relations

How Ukip is turning left on the economy

By George Eaton

New Statesman

Farage is courting the working class with a new populist programme.
Nigel Farage arrives to speak at Ukip public meeting at Old Basing Village Hall on April 9, 2014 in Basingstoke. Photograph: Getty Images.

For most of its existence, Ukip has positioned itself well to the right of the Conservative Party on the economy, advocating a radically smaller state, significantly lower taxes and a major programme of deregulation (albeit not in the area of immigration). But as the party rises to greater prominence, it is beginning to moderate its stance.

In a piece for the Daily Express on Friday, Nigel Farage echoed Labour’s criticisms of zero-hour contracts and called for larger employers to sign “a tough code of conduct as to how they are applied.” While stating that he has no “truck with militant trade unionism”, he also took aim at “over-mighty corporations” who “refuse to accept any social obligation towards loyal employees”.


 This intervention is part of a pattern of economic populism from Ukip. As Alex Wickham of Guido Fawkes notes, the party campaigned during the recent Wythenshawe by-election to “protect your benefits” and has declared its opposition to the bedroom tax. Farage has also abandoned Ukip’s previous policy of a flat tax of 31 per cent, arguing that higher earners should pay at least 40 per centThese stances will antagonise the party’s sizeable libertarian wing but they are politically astute. Far from craving a laissez-faire approach, most of the party’s supporters favour an expanded state and higher public spending. Polling by YouGov shows that 78 per cent support the nationalisation of the energy companies and 73 per cent back the renationalisation of the railways. Rather than a “code of conduct” for employers, 57 per cent simply want zero-hour contracts to be banned. Rather than a flat tax, the same number support the reintroduction of the 50p rate.


2 replies »

  1. Back in 2003, I wrote that these kinds of hybrid left/right populist/nationalist anti-globalization parties that were developing in Europe at the time might be a window of opportunity or transitional phase towards the development of a more radical movements involving some of the same ideas, plus a much greater emphasis on resisting big brother statism, economic decentralization, a corresponding decentralized pluralism in the cultural realm, total repudiation of the overlords of international capitalism, and the secessionist strategy. I’m developing a cautious sense of vindication for having written that.

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