Whatever, on Tuesday, before I’d even heard about Farage’s latest comments on replacing the tax-funding of the NHS with an insurance scheme, an e-mail dropped into my inbox containing a statement from the party’s “Health Spokesman” (who turns out to be a she rather than a he – the inaccurate title is where an over-zealous aversion to political correctness leads, I guess) distancing herself and the party from its leader. In effect, she appears to be saying that UKIP is so democratic that members can hold any position they like on anything.
It’s an interesting approach, but doomed, I suspect, to fail.
As readers with a long memory may recall, I’m not without a certain amount of form myself in the department of trying to distance a party from the views of its leader. I certainly didn’t feel that my efforts in that direction were terribly successful. I’m sure that some would argue that that’s just because I wasn’t very good at it, although (and I would say this wouldn’t I?), on the basis of that experience I’m more inclined to the view that the task is an impossible one.
Ultimately, and whether parties like it or not, the electors will believe that a party’s elected members will follow their leader on most issues, regardless of what the rest of the party actually says. And the empirical evidence suggests that that tends to be a more reliable guide to the way that parties in power behave than any manifesto or policy statement, and that the electors are therefore justified in that belief.
In UKIP’s case, though, it will probably make little difference what their policy on paying for the NHS is. Most of their potential voters are only interested in one subject anyway, and that’s immigration. They probably can get away with saying whatever they like on every other subject.