UKIP Industrial Policy

Back in March, on my second day with UKIP, Nigel Farage asked me to become the Party’s spokesman on Industry & Energy.  I was delighted to accept, as I’d been intensively engaged in the energy and climate change debate for a number of years.  But I have to admit that in the last six months, I’ve done a great deal more work on the energy side of the brief than on broader industrial policy.  (Of course energy policy is a sine qua non for industrial policy — there’s no separating the two).

In fact I’ve been gestating a UKIP Energy Policy statement, which is due to be launched at our Party Conference in Birmingham in a couple of weeks.  (Taster: “Renewables are not about green jobs.  They’re about green unemployment”).

So I was pulled up short when asked to reply to an enquirer wanting to know about UKIP’s Industrial Policy.

It would be premature, in the current state of play, for UKIP to spend time developing a detailed, sector-by sector policy for industry.  But on the other hand, our members, sympathisers, voters — and indeed our opponents — are entitled to know where we stand, and what broad principles we would pursue in order to achieve recovery, growth, employment, competitiveness, and sustainable (in the original sense, not the green subversion) prosperity.

So I replied to our enquirer in the following terms:

I rather like a quote from an American politician: “We don’t need to teach the grass to grow — we just need to get the rocks off the lawn”.  Take away the obstacles, and industry will flourish.

Our starting point for an industrial strategy would be first of all, to re-establish British independence.  We are currently so bound by EU law that all we could do now is heavily circumscribed.  Outside the EU, we should save not only the £20 bn or so in direct EU budget contributions, but we should also relieve the British economy of a large part of the estimated £100 bn cost of EU regulation

We need to deregulate radically, especially in employment law.  Of course no one imagines that you can run a modern economy without any regulation at all.  But in our view, current regulation (and especially EU regulation) is grotesquely burdensome and largely unnecessary.

We also believe that current levels of taxation are a disincentive to investment, risk-taking and entrepreneurialism.  We want to see lower and simpler taxes, both for businesses and individual tax-payers.  We believe that this in itself will promote growth, and all the experience around the world suggests, counter-intuitively, that flat tax systems actually generate more revenue than the onerous system we have today.  There are also zero- or low-cost moves that the Chancellor should be making today: cutting the 45% Income Tax rate; NI holidays for new hires (and as part of tax simplification, we need to see NI merged with income tax).

Another key area is energy (and UKIP will launch an energy policy booklet at Party Conference later this month).  Currently energy prices in the EU are too high, largely as a result of our “green” policies.  We are driving energy-intensive businesses off-shore, along with their jobs and investment.  We are seeking to compete in the global market place against America, which has cheap shale gas, and against India and China, which are rapidly building cheap coal-fired power stations.  Our UK energy policy enshrined in the 2008 Climate Change Act, and of course imposed by Brussels, is practically suicidal.  It must be changed.

We need to rationalise the banking system.  At the moment we are asking banks (A) to lend more (although excessive lending created the current crisis); (B) to rebuild their balance sheets; (C) for those who were bailed-out, to repay government loans.  Clearly they can’t do all those things at the same time.  We need to prioritise.

You will see that the emphasis is not on new government initiatives to stimulate business, but on getting government off our backs: we believe that industry will flourish if we take away the road blocks.

But that is not to say that government has no positive rôle to play.  There is a huge job to do on raising standards in education (and to be fair, this is one area where the current Coalition has made some progress).  We should also be raising the status of vocational education, and encouraging apprenticeships.

These pointers are not, of course, a detailed programme for government, so if and when we approach a rôle in government, much more work will need to be done.  Nonetheless, I think we have a clear and radical framework for economic recovery.

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3 Responses to UKIP Industrial Policy

  1. mikestallard says:

    The more I read this blog, the more I am worried.
    You say what I believe and I am sure I am not alone either.
    But the Conservative party is not making the same noises and I am, at heart, a conservative. I also cannot see the UKIP getting elected – much as I would like to.
    What I do see, however, is a divided right wing which will be smashed by the ghastly Ed Balls/TU barons with all their lifestyle/ weak little Ed Miliband combine that is today’s Labour Alliance.

    • rfhmep says:

      Indeed Mike. Canvassing today, I met a lady who said she could not vote UKIP, because she was a conservative. I replied that I had joined UKIP for the same reason. A colleague wiith me remarked “Yes, but it’s a pity Cameron is not a conservative”.

      I am well aware of the argument that we’re splitting the centre-right vote (though UKIP attracts common-sense folk from the centre-left as well). I guess it was this, and a sense of tribal loyalty, that kept me in the Tory Party for so long. But eventually they were so wrong in so many areas, failing on so many fronts, that I could not in good conscience remain a member of their party.

  2. Neil Craig says:

    I agree with you. I don’t think a we need much industrial policy, certainly not an industry by industry set of targets, objectives etc. Such things smack more of government seeking something to do than of serving any need. The free market will make better econimic choices than ministers would normally want to, let alone the ones they ate politically allowed to.

    Sir John Cowperthwaite the (Scots) civil servant responsible for overseeing Hong Kong’s remarkable success even refused to collect industrial statistics in case the civil servants back home would see that as an excuse to set targets.

    Some years ago Vince Cable proposed the abolition of the Dept of Trade (which he subsequently ruled), but that was back when the Lib Dems still made a pretence of economic liberalism.

    (To prove my ability to contradict myself I will say we should have an industrial policy in 3 areas – we should have a target of a increasing electricity supply by well above the 10% annually China does, because we have had decades of restriction of supply and the basic sorrelation between grwoth and energy growth is undisputable; we should fund rechnology improvements through X-Prizes, this is justified because patent law does not and almost certainly cannot allow inventors as good a share of the wealth they create than the other factors of production get; housing is so hedged round with restrictions that the building industry adds more value by getting planning permission than it does from building & this is so in need of reform because 75% of housing cost is regulatory.)

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