Special Report: What voters should know about Ukip

Is there more to the party than an obsession with immigration and getting Britain out of the European Union?

Suddenly, the UK Independence Party is the wild card of British politics. It left the Conservative Party bruised and traumatised by beating it in the Eastleigh by-election. It is tipped to win a large share of the vote in next year's European elections, may well cost David Cameron's party victory at the next general election, and is the force whose electoral magnetism many say will pull the Tories ever rightward. It is also the party – its programme and personalities – that has so far escaped scrutiny. Until now.

If Ukip had a name that truly reflected its priorities, it might be called the UK Immigrationphobe Party. Ostensibly the anti-EU party, an obsession with immigration and exit from Europe as a means to close Britain's doors is its prevailing motive. The word immigration runs through its policy statements like red lettering in seaside rock, and its proposed five-year ban on entries to the UK is the message it rams home on every doorstep.

That is far from all. It is deeply sceptical of global warming, wants to abolish inheritance tax, employers' National Insurance contributions, aims to partially reverse the recent hunting and smoking bans, and would increase defence spending by some 40 per cent. It is, in thought if not yet in personnel, the extreme right-wing of the Conservative Party in exile; a party run in the main by self-made businessmen with an agenda to match. And it has a record of defections, internecine squabbles and acrimony, plus scandals that have led two of its former MEPs to jail.

Founded in 1991 as the Anti-Federalist League by Dr Alan Sked of the London School of Economics (it became Ukip two years later), it has had, in the past 20 years, no fewer than eight leaders. And the upper reaches of its 22,000 members are fed – and depleted – at regular intervals by defectors coming in and going out, among them its founder. Two of the people elected as Ukip MEPs have since defected to the Conservative Party, and Nikki Sinclaire, elected a Ukip MEP in 2009, was expelled from Ukip for refusing to be part of the right-wing Europe of Freedom and Democracy grouping in the European Parliament.

On the other side of the account, two of its three peers sitting in the Lords were defections from the Conservative Party; its one Member of the Legislative Assembly in Northern Ireland is David McNarry, who was expelled from the Ulster Unionists; and the only person ever to represent the party in the Commons was Robert Spink, who defected from the Conservatives in 2008.

All these comings and goings mean its headquarters must at times resemble a tourist hotel at the height of the season. The party is, in fact, run out of an office on a business park in Newton Abbot, Devon. Its latest available accounts, for 2011, reveal it has 12 employees, made up of four party officers and eight administrative staff – four fewer than in the previous year. The Ukip leadership has managed to turn around an £18,000 deficit and posted a profit of almost £100,000.

Its MEPs have been criticised for a less-than-stellar attendance record at the European Parliament. The latest data from Votewatch.eu says that Nigel Farage's attendance in plenary has been 141 days out of 196, placing him 708 out of 754 MEPs, and his deputy Paul Nuttall managed 123 days out of 195, ranking him 742nd. More embarrassing for the party was the jailing of two of its former MEPs. In 2007, Ashley Mote, who represented South-east England, was jailed on 21 counts of benefit fraud, totalling £65,000. In 2009, Tom Wise, former MEP for East of England, was jailed for two years after falsely claiming thousands in expenses.

Mr Farage has carved out a niche for himself as a political maverick who, with a nice line in good humour, plays well on Question Time. Insiders, however, say he is somewhat shy when it comes to detail. One former Ukip member said the party had attempted to put together a co-ordinated policy platform before the last election with 18 separate policy groups charged with contributing to the Ukip manifesto. But he added: "The whole thing was eventually binned. The Ukip leadership doesn't seem to be interested in details; it's a very successful single-issue pressure group. Nigel was very uncomfortable with a manifesto which stated that 'A Ukip government would do this or that'."

Marta Andreasen, the former Ukip MEP who joined the Conservatives during the Eastleigh by-election campaign, said the party was, in effect, a pressure group. "Ukip says it has policies on things other than Europe, but none of them have been properly costed. It is very easy to use immigration as a threat to the population of this country, because people are losing their jobs and the welfare state is being reduced. I agree that there should be proper controls on immigration, but Ukip's position on this – warning that millions of Bulgarians and Romanians would come to this country – was one of the things that contributed to my leaving the party. We were coming too close to the BNP. We were on the margins of the racists."

To the accusations that his party is covertly racist, Mr Farage highlights the fact that the Ukip candidate in the Croydon North by-election was the Jamaican-born former boxer Winston McKenzie. However, Mr McKenzie provoked protests when he claimed that allowing gay couples to adopt was "unhealthy".

Ukip's deputy leader, Paul Nuttall, uses his blog to vent his spleen against political correctness. In one post, he supported the Bristol hoteliers who faced court action after refusing to let a gay couple sleep in the same bed, and the football pundits Andy Gray and Richard Keys, sacked by Sky over their "sexist" remarks about a female referee's assistant. He wrote: "Firstly, Christian hoteliers Peter and Rosemary Bull lost a court case in Bristol, which was brought by two homosexual men who took exception because the couple refused to allow them to sleep in the same bed. What a complete joke. Aren't people allowed to live by their religious beliefs in the country any more? … Gray was partaking in something we call 'banter' in football circles … It's not as if he said it live on air, but, then again, so what if he had?"

A Ukip spokesman denied the party was obsessed with migration and insisted that it had a policy platform which "reflected all the real concerns of the British people". He added: "We have policies on the economy, public services, Europe … everything. During the Eastleigh campaign, we expected to talk a lot about Europe, but when we knocked on doors people wanted to ask about immigration. Other people have analysed the election since and said immigration was the main concern of 55 per cent of the people who voted, so we were very much in touch with the people of that area. Ukip, of course, repudiates all types of racism and sectarianism. BNP former members are barred from joining Ukip."

Additional reporting by Jemma Crew and Katie Grant

Ukip policies

Lower taxes

"Abolish the tax on work – employers' National Insurance [NI]." This would lose around £50bn a year in revenue, at a stroke, reversing all progress in cutting the deficit since 2010.

"Take 4.5 million of low incomes out of tax with a simple, flat rate income tax … Merge 20 per cent basic income tax with 11 per cent NI to create a 31 per cent flat tax on all earned incomes over £11,500." This would create another vast hole in public finances, and mean tax cuts for all higher-rate taxpayers.

"Ukip have a long-standing policy to abolish inheritance tax." This would cost about £3bn a year.

"Global warming is not proven – wind power is futile. Scrap all green taxes, wind-turbine subsidies, adopt nuclear power to free us from dependence on fossil fuels and foreign oil and gas."

"Cut taxes on small businesses." Unspecified.

Lower public spending

"Public spending is increasing and the coalition's cuts do not scratch the surface of Labour's deficit. We must cut down government if we are to return to a sound economy."

Quangos: "Bring them under Parliament's control and cut the cost substantially". No definition of "substantial".

"Make real and rigorous cuts in foreign aid." The aid budget is about £10bn a year.

"By leaving the EU we save over £45m a day plus £60bn a year due to EU trade barriers, business regulation, waste, fraud." £60bn a year is equivalent to the annual spending of the entire Education Department.

Higher public spending

"Spend an extra 40 per cent on defence annually." A cost of £19bn pa.

"Double prison places to enforce zero tolerance on crime." Cost about £4bn pa.

"Roll all state pensions and benefits into a simple, substantial citizen's pension." Uncosted.

Restore student grants, but abandon target of 50 per cent of young people going to university. Uncosted.

A better yesterday

"Only by leaving the EU can we regain control of our borders."

"Life must mean life."

"Our traditional values have been undermined. Children are taught to be ashamed of our past. Multiculturalism has split our society. Political correctness is stifling free speech."

"Support grammar schools."

"End the ban on smoking in allocated rooms in public houses, clubs and hotels."

"Hold county-wide referenda on the hunting ban."

John Rentoul

Sources: 'What We Stand For, A Ukip Statement of Principles', 28 November 2011, and other documents on the Ukip website

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Nadine Gordimer died peacefully at home yesterday
people
Arts and Entertainment
Neil Young performs on stage at Hyde Park
musicAnd his Hyde Park set has rhyme and reason, writes Nick Hasted
News
Women have been desperate to possess dimples like Cheryl Cole's
people Cole has secretly married French boyfriend Jean-Bernard Fernandez-Versini after just three months.
Arts and Entertainment
AKB48 perform during one of their daily concerts at Tokyo’s Akihabara theatre
musicJapan's AKB48 are one of the world’s most-successful pop acts
News
Ian Thorpe has thanked his supporters after the athlete said in an interview that he is gay
people
News
The headstone of jazz great Miles Davis at Woodlawn Cemetery in New York
news
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll has brought out his female alter-ego Agnes Brown for Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie
filmComedy holds its place at top of the UK box office
News
newsBear sweltering in zoo that reaches temperatures of 40 degrees
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Kathy Willis will showcase plants from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
radioPlants: From Roots to Riches has been two years in the making
Extras
indybestThe tastiest creations for children’s parties this summer
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
Arts and Entertainment
Paolo Nutini performs at T in the Park
music
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Programme Planner

£30000 - £45000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based i...

Supply Chain Manager

Not Specified: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's most progressive and innova...

Senior SAP FICO Consultant, £60,000 - £65,000, Manchester

£55000 - £65000 per annum: Progressive Recruitment: Senior SAP FICO Consultant...

Service Desk Analyst - ITIL, Windows, Active Directory

£35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A world leading brokerage is looking for a...

Day In a Page

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream as Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream

Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil
Saharan remains may be evidence of the first race war, 13,000 years ago

The first race war, 13,000 years ago?

Saharan remains may be evidence of oldest large-scale armed conflict
Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Researchers hope eye tests can spot ‘biomarkers’ of the disease
Sex, controversy and schoolgirl schtick

Meet Japan's AKB48

Pop, sex and schoolgirl schtick make for controversial success
In pictures: Breathtaking results of this weekend's 'supermoon'

Weekend's 'supermoon' in pictures

The moon appeared bigger and brighter at the weekend
Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor