By Tim Montgomerie
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Yesterday a senior Tory adviser told me that Nigel Farage was acting like Father Christmas – promising goodies to everyone. It was a point I'd made in last Monday's Times (£):
"In a leaflet
distributed to the voters of Eastleigh Nigel Farage’s party promises to “reduce
everyone’s taxes”. That’s right – “everyone’s”. At the same time it promises to
reintroduce free student grants, increase the size of the military, increase
police numbers, put more people in prison, enhance pensions and give every
voter a free lollipop. Okay, I made the last one up but UKIP makes Ed Balls
look fiscally responsible. Labour may have opposed all of the Coalition’s tough
decisions on the deficit but the shadow chancellor has at least attempted to
stop his colleagues from making unfunded additional spending promises. UKIP’s
economic immaturity may, in due course, become its Achilles heel."
Number 10 is clearly pushing the Santa Claus line. In his Mail on Sunday column James Forsyth writes that "Tories will soon start hitting [UKIP] as the ‘Santa Claus party’, ridiculing the claim that it can cut taxes while vastly increasing spending on defence and public services. They will seek to portray Nigel Farage as a confidence trickster, trying to pull the wool over voters’ eyes." The Christmassy image also reached Andrew Rawnsley: "Ukip's literature in Eastleigh promised tax cuts for "everyone"," he noted, "and more spending on everything from the restoration of student grants to more generous pensions to more prisons. It must be the only party to be led by people who still believe in Santa Claus."
I don't think the Tory leadership has any choice but to try this tactic. The fiscal follies of UKIP's manifesto deserve to be exposed and it will stop many serious voters from supporting Nigel Farage. It won't be enough, of course. Many voters aren't voting for UKIP but against the political establishment. Closer to the election the anti-politics sentiment may subside but it may not and it's very unlikely to disappear completely.