The United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) is at its highest ever poll rating, thanks in large part to a fall in support for the Conservatives. UKIP is now polling at 9 percent, a 3 percent increase from last month. The Conservatives have seen a 4 percent fall in approval. UKIP, a party that has no members in the House of Commons is now polling only one point behind the Liberal Democrats, who are in a coalition government with the Conservatives.
Although UKIP does not having any members in the House of Commons, it does have twelve members in the European Parliament. Nigel Farage, the leader of UKIP, is perhaps best known in the U.S. for his colorful speeches to the European Parliament. One of my favorites below:
Many in the U.K. and U.S. see UKIP as some sort of haven for British libertarianism. UKIP seems to be at least superficially friendly to libertarianism, the statement on gay marriage found on UKIP's website describes the party as a "democratic libertarian Party." However, a fleeting glimpse at UKIP's policies reveal that the party is not as supportive of personal liberty as its members might like to say it is.
The anti-libertarianism of UKIP can be most clearly seen in UKIP's immigration policy. Some highlights:
End mass, uncontrolled immigration. UKIP calls for an immediate five-year freeze on immigration for permanent settlement. We aspire to ensure that any future immigration does not exceed 50,000 people p.a.
End the active promotion of the doctrine of multiculturalism by local and national government and all publicly funded bodies.
One of the few redeeming features of the European Union is its open borders policy. If what is concerning UKIP members is the supposed drain that foreigners have on British welfare spending then why not address the issue directly? How could a "libertarian" party support such a restriction on the movement of people?
On crime and justice UKIP have adopted some of the scarier parts of the American criminal justice system:
Introduce a 'three strikes and you're out' policy to deal with persistent offenders and make our streets safer for the public
Double prison places through better use of existing prisons and a substantial programme of new prison building. UKIP will also end the scandal of early releases and weak sentencing. This will cost approximately £2bn p.a. in contrast to the cost of crime, estimated by the Home Office at £45bn p.a.
What is frustrating is that on the economy UKIP offers some good proposals, such as introducing a flat tax, raising the tax threshold, and reducing public spending. UKIP is also Eurosceptic, a sentiment that is especially important today given Europe's current economic crisis.
Some young libertarians involved in UKIP will tell you that there is potential to change the party from the inside, a sentiment that betrays a fetish for politics over conviction. While UKIP might offer some welcome proposals on how to shrink the state that is no reason to forget its proposals on crime and immigration. It looks like UKIP will become increasingly relevant in British politics, it would be a shame for so-called libertarians to give them a pass just becuase of their economic proposals.