In laughing at ukip we should not lull ourselves into thinking that the party have not formulated some policies that will stimulate the erogenous zones of the electorate and cynically obtain a political advantage thereby. They have and the following one from their Policies for People deserves serious attention:
Honouring the Military Covenant
1. We will resource fully our military assets and personnel.
2. UKIP will guarantee those who have served in the Armed Forces for a minimum of 12 years a job in the police force, prison service or border force
3. UKIP will change the points system for social housing to give priority to ex-service men and women and those returning from active service.
4. A Veterans Department will bring together all veterans services to ensure servicemen and women get the after-service care they deserve.
5. Veterans are to receive a Veterans’ Service Card to ensure they are fast tracked for mental health care and services, if needed.
6. All entitlements will be extended to servicemen recruited from overseas.
7. UKIP supports a National Service Medal for all those who have served in the armed forces.
ukip has a strong contingent of ex military types amongst its supporters, it is attracting voters from across the political spectrum who fit the profile of people most likely to approve of this policy and, given the fact that those often opposed to war feel our soldiers, sailors and air force personnel are unfairly treated when they return to Civvy Street then this is a set of policies with mass appeal.
Imagine for a moment that mini manifesto set out in the pages of the Sun, the Daily Star, the Daily Express, the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph then ask yourself whether or not the readers of those newspapers will be more or less inclined to look favourably on Nigel Farage.
Too often the Left in UK politics have failed to recognise the affection that people across the political spectrum have for our armed forces. An affection that seems to be increasing as the numbers employed in our armed forces falls. We seem to commemorate Remembrance Day much more than we did in my youth. We have new, high profile charities dedicated to raising money for ex forces personnel. We do not have a Prussian military style culture, but we do seem to be importing the mind set that the USA has towards its military into our way of life.
If you think I am exaggerating then take a look at the suicides resulting out of the Employment and Support Allowance Work Capability Assessment process reported in the Daily Mail. Most of the ones I have read involve ex forces personnel and are, therefore, a minority of the total. The Daily Mail is a cheerleader for IDS and his campaign against those on Social Security. It is not opposed to the ESA/WCA process, but only the way it is being applied to a specific group, if its coverage of cases is any guide. It is the people who implement the process ‘wrongly’ that are at fault not its designer. Lefty public servants, pen pushers etc are unfairly picking on people by virtue of their background and so it is not a coincidence that those cases where the policy has been mis-applied, in the Daily Mail’s view, involve ex armed forces personnel. In other words, these cases are the exception not the rule, not the fault of IDS and conveniently confirm the prejudices of the average Daily Mail reader about those working in the public sector. A sort of two for the price of one outcome. Now look at points 4 and 5 above.
Point 6 sets out a policy of which Joanna Lumley would approve. Imagine what her endorsement of this approach would get ukip in terms of publicity. There is a view abroad that successive Governments have failed to honour the Military Covenant and it runs across the political spectrum. No one seems much concerned to enact a similar covenant for any other part of the public sector which is surely significant in itself.
ukip is not outflanking the political parties on the left or the right, it is driving its tanks right down the centre on this issue. And many on the the Left, with its particular take on the military are not well placed to hold their ground let alone counter attack for fear of being seen as both unpatriotic and even hypocritical. A portion of the Left are traditionally conflicted in being opposed to the military, but supportive of the working class rank and file. And the working class has often been at odds with the Left over defence. Look up the derivation of the word, jingoism, to discover how conservative the working class has been in regard of the use of military force and imperialism. Then remember the reactions of the vast majority towards the sending of a task force to recapture the Falklands. And note the proposed, plans post independence to increase the number of infantry in the new Scottish Army. No one loses votes by being strong on defence and point 1 above recognises that.
We should not stop laughing at ukip, quite the opposite, but we should not ignore the fact that by formulating populist policies like those above it does speak to a wide spectrum of the population. Imagine once more, in this case Nigel Farage in a tv debate being asked a question that allows him to set out the policies above. Then try to tell me ukip’s popularity ratings would not rise the following day, particularly in contrast with any responses made by the other parties, including the Greens, Plaid Cymru and the SNP. No part of the UK does not have strong connections with the military. No part of the UK does not have War Memorials. Few in the UK oppose the commemoration of the First World War whatever their views on whether it should have been fought and how it was fought. You only have to look at the responses to those critiquing the poppy display at the Tower of London to see how the public reacts to any suggestion of disrespect towards the fallen.
If you think I am scaremongering in saying we should treat ukip seriously in this regard then reflect on the fact that part of ukip’s rise is down to adopting the (non political) pavement politics pioneered by the Liberal Democrats and what is more above politics than the Military Covenant? And that migration only a few short years ago was not a big issue for most of the electorate. It was certainly not high amongst their priorities when deciding for whom to vote, but it is now. I would hazard a guess that more people would approve of the policies above than share Farage’s take on migration and they, despite what some would like to think, are talking about migration more and more in public.
Finally, imagine canvassing for your party and going up to the door of a house where there is a Help for Heroes sticker in the window, being told by the householder they are voting ukip and, when you ask why, because of those policies above. Got any response that might change his mind rather than having the door slammed in your face? Charlie Chaplin lampooned his look a like, but his look a like knew how to tug at the heart strings of the electorate when it came to cynically playing the military card for electoral advantage and look where it got him. You think Nigel Farage does not know about how that card was played then think again. He referenced it in a little reported lecture he gave around the time of Remembrance Day last year.