Today the Brexit Party launched its Contract with the People. A contract, not a manifesto, because as Nigel Farage put it, the other parties had devalued the meaning of a manifesto.
Call it what it will, the Brexit Party has certainly shrunk it. At a mere eighteen pages of bullet-point promises, this pocket-sized document has neither the look nor feel of the mainstream parties’ manifestos which now stretch beyond 100 pages.
The launch event and accompanying election broadcast was aimed almost entirely at winning the votes of the five million Labour Leavers. The logic of appealing to this category of political refugees is obviously stronger following Farage’s Hartlepool Declaration in which he withdrew Brexit Party candidates from seats currently held by Conservatives. It also fits with Farage’s continuing protestations that the polling experts are all wrong – Brexit Party candidates standing in the Labour seats that the Tories need to win will harm the incumbents’ fortunes more than those of the Conservatives.
Having locked antlers with the pro-Brussels liberal Establishment, the Brexit Party’s pitch is already looking to settle scores for the longer term. With the EU dispatched, it will bring the revolution home.
“We are the new radicals” claimed Farage today, highlighting the areas where the new model Brexit Party has inherited the mantle of John Hampden and Oliver Cromwell, rather than Sir Thomas Fairfax and General Monck.
On the subject of referenda the Brexit Party offers its greatest hostage to fortune
The House of Lords will be abolished. The Supreme Court is, Farage said, “a political court acting without any guidelines whatsoever.” It needs a written code. The BBC “has become an anachronism” whose licence fee should be “phased out over a period of time.” The first-past-the-post voting system will be reformed “to make it more representative” although which form of electoral reform would be favoured (and whether – given the precedent of 2011 – change would be first subject to a referendum) are details left for another day.
It is, indeed, on the subject of referenda, that the Brexit Party offers its greatest hostage to fortune. It wants a “Citizens’ Initiative” that would mandate the calling of a referendum (subject to a threshold of five million registered voters calling for it; and time limitations on repeat votes). Given the ease of clicking-on websites to demand stuff, the procedure would surely have to be made not too easy. Otherwise, it is a proposal to make Gina Miller’s heart beat a little faster.
The Brexit Party’s pitch to Labour Leavers is less about handouts, and more about tax cuts such as removing VAT on domestic fuel bills and reducing the cost of living by cutting tariffs on the 20% of foodstuffs that come from outside the EU.
Savings from government expenditure (for instance, HS2, the foreign aid budget, the £7 billion that Philip Hammond left behind at the European Investment Bank) are in areas that these target voters hold in least regard. The appeal to small traders is made by lifting corporation tax from companies (the majority of all companies, in fact) with annual revenue below £10,000.
But where other national institutions and vested interests will be shown no mercy, the most treasured will be enshrined. The Brexit Party “believes in continued investment in the NHS … where existing private initiatives have failed to deliver we will return them to public ownership.”
A party that is proposing radical economic liberalism in its appeal to the politically left-behind, does so with its most vulnerable flank covered.
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