Mr Cameron’s tactical gambits to keep one step ahead of Ukip will not bring disaffected Tory voters back into his fold.
But the failure of Ukip to define any other policies that resist or counter Mr Cameron’s fatally flawed modernising tendency will.
It is true that Ukip remains the only party to pledge an exit from the EU and to stand up for the UK as a nation state once more.
It is true too that, unlike Nick Clegg, Ukip’s supporters do not believe it to be unpatriotic to reclaim the nation’s borders. But though this logic may escape the likes of Clegg and Cameron, Ukip can’t rely on it. Just being party of protest is not enough to be taken seriously.
On Sunday Mr. Farage did make a first stab at dealing with this on Andrew Marr’s television programme. He mooted three new proposals – a grammar school in every town, taking people on the minimum wage out of tax, and reducing the top rate to 40 per cent. So far so good, but really, really, nowhere near far enough – given that Ukip has been around for 20 years.
Nigel needs to spend less time lunching with Bepo Grillo – he should know better than anyone the EU is a lost cause – and more time on how to land the 20 seats in Westminster at the next election he hopes for and needs.
What he has to get his head round is that his EU-sceptic supporters are either economic liberals or social conservatives. He has to persuade how, like a horse and carriage, they go together – in fact depend on each other.
Not to disappoint, Mr Farage too must show himself as radical in his response to culture as to the economy – to the lone parent crisis, to oppressive equalities legislation, and to youth and male unemployment – just as much as he has been on controlling immigration, deregulating business and cutting taxes.
He needs to communicate what no other party leader seems anywhere close to understanding – the Aristotelian principle that it is only through discipline that freedom comes.
That’s how he explains why a small state, competitive, deregulated free market economy depends on socially conservative social and family policies – policies where families not the state dictate how their children are reared; policies where education is competitive and is whole-class directed rather than individual child centred and led.
Then he needs to get up to speed with the facts:
that over the last 25 years married families, especially those with one earner, have been punished and undermined while lone parent and cohabitatees have been rewarded, to the detriment of their children; that too many married families have been pulled into the higher tax bracket by fiscal drag, kyboshing any aspiration and assigning them to a new form of middle class poverty.
This done he must pledge to reverse this state of affairs by:
1. Reforming taxation to put the married family first and to reverse the decline in marriage.
This is fundamental to everything else. As Holly Hamilton-Bleakley wrote this weekend, to underestimate the value of what happens in the home is to misunderstand a fundamental driver of the economy.
Reforming taxation to make for a competitive yet responsible society also means:
· raising the threshold on the 40 per cent tax rate to £70,000;
· upping the value of the transferable tax allowance, gradually to the full allowance (as David Davis argued for) and extending it to the higher rate tax bracket;
· removing the child benefit cap to stop the punishment of one earner couple families where one spouse wants to stay at home to look after the baby or children.
2. Dismantling the costly tax credits system (saving £33 billion) and other choice-less childcare subsidies and tax allowances; deregulating childcare; and re-instituting child allowances.
This costly ‘work’ and childcare incentive has brought four fifths of all families into the benefits system while failing to increase real productivity; favouring dual earning families and institutionalised childcare it has undermined families’ choice to bring up children at home.
3. Bringing back grammar schools and technical and other specialist schools based on competitive entry with entry points through to the age of 17 to cater for late development;
4. Ending state interference in family life – those inappropriate laissez-faire/ ‘informed choice’ policies and contraception services that have encouraged rather than prevented destructive teen sex and drug use;
5. Cracking down on liberal drug and alcohol policies that leave children unprotected.
Mr Farage and his team must show as much determination and confidence in fighting these culture wars as they’ve shown in their war with the establishment over the nation’s borders.