Rexy For Ruislip

Integrity. Honesty. Fairness.

Even More Economic Ineptitude

This would be a much less wasteful thing to do with money than what Reform UK have in mind.

Reform UK are on the move, but unfortunately it’s just another example of them wanting to play at politics without any real understanding of what they are doing.  I am referring to this “manifesto” which has surfaced in recent days on Twitter.  This particular image was shares by a self-declared stand-up comedian, but most of his recent political posts seem to be serious (or at least that looks like it was the intention).  The image in question is this one:

Let’s go through claim by claim to see what makes sense, what doesn’t (most of it) and what is just so wrong it isn’t even in the right ballpark.

Authenticity

First of all, this is not an authentic manifesto. During an election campaign, all materials published by a party  are required to have an imprint on to show who has been responsible for making the claims.  This document lacks any such imprint, meaning it has the same impact as parody.  Nevertheless, several Reform UK candidates seem to be treating this as though it is real, so I will do the same.  Importantly, though, if this is official party policy, they have messed up by not including an imprint.

Notwithstanding this crucial omission, I suspect that this is actually a sanctioned document by Reform UK.  I assume the missing imprint is deliberate to allow them plausible deniability if they actually get success, essentially giving them a “Get Out Of Promises Free” card.  So if you are reading this document and thinking “I like that a political party is promising these things” remember that they aren’t.  They are taking you for a fool, and they deserve your contempt for that and numerous other offences.

Increased Personal Allowance

Nothing wrong with this headline figure as a concept except to say why £20,000 is their chosen figure (minor gripe) and how they intend to pay for it (major problem, as this would cost a huge amount of tax revenue).  My back of envelope calculations suggest this on its own could cost upwards of £200 billion a year, on its own dwarfing the total cost of the whole manifesto stated as £141 billion.

Scrap VAT on Fuel Bills and Lower Fuel Duty

This seems like a reasonable solution until you realise that the reason why fuel bills are so high is because the free market allows energy companies to charge a high price for their product. Scrapping VAT on energy bills would have a short term benefit, but market forces would react to the reduction in price by nudging prices higher.  In a  few short years we would likely be back to the same issue again, but this time we would all be paying high energy prices and there would be no tax revenue to compensate us.  Worst of both worlds.

The right solution is to either price regulate, nationalise the energy companies or introduce a competing publicly-owned supplier that can directly affect the prices offered by the remaining private sector companies.

Reduce Corporation Tax to 20%

No indication why reducing corporation tax would be a good idea, though it is of course interesting to note that Reform UK Ltd – a corporation – would directly benefit from such a tax reduction.  In reality, small companies rarely pay anywhere close to the 25% rate due to the number of allowances and reliefs they have available, and any income they generate which is paid out as salary is already an  allowable expense.

Corporations do not need a lower rate of tax except to directly benefit their shareholders, not their employees.

Freeze Non-Essential Immigration

This is another costly measure that will likely cause us more problems than it solves, but even if successful, the question has to be raised of “who decides what is non-essential?” At the moment, it would wholly be Nigel Farage, as he seems to be the sole decision-maker for Reform UK, and frankly I wouldn’t want him making any such decisions on behalf of the country.

Immediate Deportation for Foreign Criminals

This  might as well be renamed “Catch and Release”. If we arrest someone in the UK and sentence them to a jail term, then deporting them back to their parent country is just setting them free instead of jailing them because they have not been sentenced to jail in that jurisdiction.  People would be free to come to the UK to commit whatever crimes they wanted, safe in the knowledge that if caught they would just be sent home again.  I can’t even begin to state what a terrible idea this would be for justice.

This is one of those policies designed to sound like it would save money, but in reality all it would do is create a two-tier justice system where ironically the foreign criminals would have far better treatment than native British criminals.

New Housing

Again, no issue with this in principle as we need more housing. But again, it’s a good idea, but with no costings or even quantified goals.

Life Skills in Schools and Scrap Student Loan Interest

Sensible policies, but again no indication of who would get to pick the life skills being taught.  As such, the default is Nigel Farage getting to decide on curriculum content, which frankly should terrify anyone even if they actually like him – one man absolutely should not have that much power.

In terms of scrapping student loan interest, it’s a start, I suppose.  But the lost interest has to be paid for from somewhere, and there’s no indication of where this will come from.

Farming

There’s talk here about increasing the farming budget, but not what would be done with it, increasing our food production without any sort of acknowledgement that we don’t grow all our own food because we actually like the food that we import, and subsidised agricultural apprenticeships.  Nothing wrong with this last one necessarily, but it seems very odd to specifically target agricultural apprenticeships rather than apprenticeships in general.  It’s almost as though they are tacitly admitting that we don’t have enough fruit-pickers…

Accelerate Transport Infrastructure in the North

This is an utterly meaningless promise.  It doesn’t specific what sort of infrastructure, what will actually be build, how much will be spent on it, whether the focus will be on public transport, roads or even airports, etc.  In short, it means absolutely nothing.

Retain NHS Workforce

This one is potentially huge, but so is the cost.  The average doctor now has around £60,000 of student debt when they graduate, and most of that will still be around after 10 years.  As such, that’s the equivalent of £6,000 extra annual pay for every doctor starting from when they get in.

We have already been told by their right-wing brethren that £2.5 billion as a pay deal for junior doctors is unaffordable.  In 2022 nearly 24,000 doctors joined.  If 20,000 were new graduates, that’s £1.2 billion in their 10th year.  The same figure would then be payable every year in perpetuity.

I am all for treating junior doctors better, but waiving this off as something that can just be paid for out of efficiency savings is beyond lazy, it’s completely irresponsible.

Hire 40,000 New Police

Again, not a bad idea in isolation, but the cost here would be enormous. Assuming average salary and benefits cost £30,000 a year, with acquisition and training costs equal to 100% of first year’s salary, that’s £1.2 billion up front and £1.2 billion every year.

Again,  in isolation they could likely find a way to get that from “efficiency savings” but with a total bill of over £140 billion even by their own wishy-washy figures, this is impossible.

Increase Defence Spending to 2.5%

I think most of the main parties have already pledged this.

Leave ECHR and Introduce British Bill of Rights

At first glance introducing a bill of rights might seem like a reasonable thing to do, but remember that Parliament is sovereign. Any bill of rights introduced by one parliament can be overturned by another.  So even if for some reason you trust Nigel Farage with your rights, what about his successor? Or the successor’s successor? The benefit of being a part of the ECHR is that we cannot lose our rights because a government decides that some of our rights are just too pesky to allow any more.

Scrap Net Zero

This is one of their more stupid ideas.  At the moment, renewable energy is the cheapest  form of energy generation, so scrapping net zero for energy generation would actually cost money.  If we instead encourages the development of onshore wind power generation, we would likely be able to generate our country’s entire power needs and remove our dependence on foreign sources of gas and oil.

Benefits

Frankly this is just a veiled way of saying that they want to demonise benefits claimants even more than they currently are.  As this chart shows, benefits claimants are really not the problem that they seem to suggest they are.  Instead the major cost to the country comes from people not paying their fair share of taxes.  If we want to make sure the country’s coffers are properly filled, targeting tax evasion and avoidance would be a far better use of our funds than demonising those who need to fall back on the benefits system.

Incidentally, the actual support offered by the benefits system is woeful.  As someone who has a long-standing disability, I can state from experience that I had to fight hard for everything I get, and that my total entitlement is far less than I actually need on a monthly basis.  It is not something that anyone would ever choose as a lifestyle, and the people telling you otherwise have likely never once actually needed to use the system.

Funding

The final lines of the document are the only point where costings are even mentioned.  They claim that the total cost of their policies would be £141 billion, but  I very much doubt that given the back of envelope calculation that the increased personal allowance would be more expensive than that in isolation.