Well, ha ha. Godfrey Bloom, ‘kipper (and subject of a TYR profile back in 2004) is concerned that his party is full of obsessives, weirdos, and people with terrible amateur schemes. Bloom’s rant is worth quoting:
My experience thus far is that as soon as more than 2 people get in a room progress completely stops. Even where we have experts of our own they disagree….The charm and frustration of Ukip is we have doctors who fancy themselves as tax experts, painters and decorators who know all about strategic defence issues, and branch chairmen, retired dentists, who understand the most intricate political solutions for the nation.
Of course it is; it’s a political party. That’s what they’re like, for good or ill. Anyone who has ever been an activist knows that sinking feeling of oh Christ, they’re all completely mad and that’s our lot, God knows what the others are like. Politics attracts eccentrics. On the other hand, as Powell & Pressburger had Roger Livesey argue before God in A Matter of Life and Death, the problem isn’t the rights of the common man, it’s the rights of the uncommon man. Mediocrity is not among the inspiring goals of humanity.
Bloom’s proposed solution is deeply depressing. It is also revealing, both about the man and about the broader society. He wants to have thinktanks tender for the job of writing their policy. An RFP will be issued, and the lowest-bidding wanktank will scoop the job. Seriously.
We do not have the resources to write serious papers on major subjects, why reinvent the wheel? Why not buy policy ‘off the shelf’, where it is close to our own small government, low tax, libertarian position.
If Nigel, or indeed any of the ‘frontbench’ spokesmen talk of welfare or tax, the endorsement of such institutions is a very strong shield from the sort of dismissive left wing interviewers with whom we usually cross swords.
Imagine Nigel in a hostile (oh yes it will be) interview with a ‘Paxman’, being able to say “Yes it will work, our policy has been completely vetted and endorsed by……..” fill in the blank, Civitas, IEA, IOD, BMA, RCN etc…”
I think this is fascinating. First of all, we’ve had the Eric Pickles notion of the council that meets once a year to pick contractors to do everything according to its taste, but here we go a step further – we pick a subcontractor to decide what our tastes are. It’s in the nature of thinktanks that the provider with the most external funding can offer the lowest rates, so we’ve cut out the middleman and let the donors determine the policy content directly.
You could make a libertarian case that this is perfect; money is speech, the market will decide. But note that Bloom isn’t even arguing that. He feels that thinktanks are a source of legitimacy as well, a dignified as well as an efficient part of the constitution. Which thinktank is largely irrelevant – he suggests both the IEA and the Royal College of Nursing! – so it is clearly enough to invoke thinkiness itself.
Of course, this is another step in the direction of the party system as a barrier to representation, rather than a means of representation. It is necessary to screen out the preferences or ideas coming from those untidy eccentric weirdos, the people, and replace them with congenial wanktanks.
It is probably no accident that UKIP is moving in this direction after it managed to end up with the most aggressively stimulative economic policy in Britain. They want to give the Bank of England a dual mandate to target unemployment as well as prices, they want to have a flat tax which would probably mean a considerable drop in tax revenue, and they want to spend on every damn thing you can think of. More motorways? Yes! High speed rail? Yes! More of it! Just not where it’s going now! Nuclear power everywhere! £30bn worth of flood defences! A 70-ship navy with a third aircraft carrier? Yes, why not? Higher pensions? Certainly!
All of this is meant to be funded out of the EU budget contribution, but surely nobody believes this. The only way any of this could happen would be an epic fiscal and monetary stimulus. That must not happen. So, wanktanks. I think they might keep the pedigree dog thing.