The leader of Ukip Nigel Farage totally disowned one of his party’s key election policies on Sunday – less than 48 hours after it was announced.
On Friday Ukip’s economic spokesman and key Farage ally Patrick O'Flynn suggested the party would levy a “luxury goods tax” on items such as designer shoes and handbags.
The idea was to introduce a 25 per cent VAT rate for top-end goods to appeal to Labour voters and was the centre-piece announcement at Ukip’s annual party conference in Doncaster.
But today Mr Farage killed off the idea, saying bluntly it “isn't going to happen”.
“I am very happy to give the freedom to our spokesmen and spokeswomen to float ideas but I'm pretty certain that while I'm leader that will not be in our manifesto,” he said in an interview with BBC1's The Andrew Marr Show.
“As far as I am concerned it's dead. It was a discussion point yesterday. It isn't going to happen.”
The abrupt U-turn raises serious questions about Ukip’s policy making process as it attempt to move from being a party of protest to one which they hope can challenge both Labour and the Conservatives in the next election.
Mr Farage may have buckled to pressure from new Tory defectors Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless to dump the plan. Both are on the right of the Tories and would find it hard to back a policy that would increase taxation. He may also fear the policy will put off other potential Tory defectors.
Ukip chairman Steve Crowther tried to claim that part of the party's appeal was that it was "shambolic" and did not attempt to be as slick as its rivals.
He told BBC Radio 5 Live's Pienaar's Politics: “My feeling is we have to clearly make clear that we are capable of having ideas and being able to deal with all of the aspects of government that we might be asked to deal with following the next general election, and we do that.
“But if sometimes we are a little bit hard-edged or sometimes we stub our toe, I don't think that's a problem.
“It's part of our brand, frankly, it's part of what Ukip is.”
He added: “I haven't said being shambolic is something I wish to boast about.”
But he continued: “I believe that it is true that Ukip is ... liked by its electorate because it is not always as slick and as polished as the other political parties.
“I think it's very important. It is the slick polish and nothing ever apparently going wrong, that leads to, frankly, torpedoes hitting you below the waterline.”
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