The United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) have placed their commitment to a right-wing free-market agenda at the centre of their general election campaign. Launching their manifesto today (13 April), they promised to abolish the top rate of income tax, scrap national insurance and transfer two million public sector jobs to the private sector.
UKIP's manifesto also calls for a five-year freeze on migrants settling in the UK, boot camps for young offenders, withdrawal from the European Union and a ban on the niqab (or Muslim face veil) in public and in certain private buildings.
UKIP will stand candidates in 550 constituencies, but will not campaign against sitting MPs who are opposed to membership of the European Union.
The party seems to be attempting to appeal to right-wing voters who may feel alienated by Tory leader David Cameron's claim to have moved his party to “the centre ground”. They may also capitalise on anti-immigration and anti-European sentiment.
But UKIP are likely to find themselves competing for votes with the British National Party (BNP), who share many of the same policies.
"It really is time for some straight talking," said UKIP's Nigel Farage, who is hoping to win Buckingham, “We are skint. We need some massive cutbacks in the public sector. We can't have our own immigration and asylum policy if we remain members of this European Union."
The UKIP leader, Malcolm Pearson, claimed that withdrawal from the European Union would save up to £120 billion per year, although it is not clear how he arrived at this figure.
UKIP's deputy-leader, David Campbell Bannerman, said that trade with other European countries would be replaced by trade with “our kith and kin” in the Commonwealth.
Whereas UKIP has in the past focused on cultural and political loyalty to Britain, their approach on this occasion seems to be primarily economic. They claim that they could cut £50 billion of public spending each year through policies that include abolishing free television licences for older people, scrapping student loan subsidies for those on lower incomes, freezing grants to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and cutting civil service staffing by 10 per cent.
Other parties have questioned whether such savings are really possible, even with such heavy cuts.
UKIP would also scrap various projects to tackle climate change, based on their 'sceptical' stance on whether climate change is caused by human activity. This position marks them out from the vast majority of both politicians and scientists.
Also on Ekklesia: 'UKIP and the BNP – What's the Difference?' by Symon Hill http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/11611