In 2010, Nigel Farage told Jeremy Paxman that, if a Ukip government ever existed, it would increase defence spending by 25 percent. Now, on the cusp of the European Elections, the party is campaigning on cuts to foreign aid. Money sent to developing nations is, Ukip argues, a waste – why should Britain busy itself with the affairs of foreigners?
It's hard to miss the hypocrisy. Ukip's cuts to foreign aid have nothing to do with saving money or reducing the deficit. In fact, unless the foreign aid budget was reduced to zero, a 25% increase in defence spending would actually mean the UK was spending more money than it is now.
The Department for International Development says around £11bn is spent by the UK on foreign assistance each year. The defence budget for 2013, meanwhile, was £42bn. A 25% increase on that would total, roughly, another £11bn. Unless the entire foreign aid budget was rerouted to defence, Farage's proposed 25% increase would actually place the UK further out of pocket.
This isn't about money. This is about flexing muscle.
Ukip's campaign literature is brimming with colonial rhetoric. Pulling out of Europe and cutting foreign aid are policies designed to revert Britain back, at least culturally, to its pre-World War state. Even the seemingly genteel parts of Ukip's manifesto are there to pull the strings of people who remember – or think they remember – a better Britain, in the good old days.
"We need more police on the streets," says the party's local election leaflet. "Green spaces should be protected." These promises appeal directly to middle-class fifty-somethings, whose idea of Britain is still rooted in The Darling Buds of May and Keep Calm posters. They don't at all represent reality. Crime is continuing to fall and the Conservatives, for all their faults, have already launched a report proposing a ban on landfills, and declared that no more wind farms will be built on green land.
Ukip's policies are not in the interest of the country, economically or socially. They're created by nostalgics for nostalgics, people who believe Britain was better before 1960.
Both Ukip's foreign aid cuts and proposal to leave Europe are perfect examples. These are policies not made as a way of saving Britain money, but to increase the country's military presence; to make the UK selfish again.
Ukip won't pay to help developing nations, but it will pay for the tools to blow them up. It won't pay into the EU, but it still expects to trade with Europe after it pulls out. This entitled attitude smacks of The Empire, as if Britain is automatically enabled to use the rest of the world as it chooses. Ukip, and its supporters, seem to believe that Britain is still the most powerful nation on Earth, that it needs an army to extend its interests and that it can trade however it likes.
It's a belief convenient for many, who need jingoism to satisfy their egos, but it's wholly untrue. Britain contributes less than 3% of global GDP. Its army is smaller than Iran's. China won't trade with it and its largest industry, chemicals, relies on other EU nations for 56% of its exports. Put simply, Britain isn't all that.
Ukip talks about Britain as if it's still run by Elizabeth I, as if it still manufactures jute and has the world's biggest navy. It sounds good, to some, but it isn't at all true. The Empire crumbled, thank God, and now Britain depends on communication with the rest of the world in order to maintain itself.
Upping the defence budget and slicing foreign aid would be an act of pure arrogance. Ukip would turn Britain into a self-righteous security guard, sitting at the front gate, acting as if he owns the whole company. After plundering the developing world for the 19th century, and the first half of the 20th, it's only fitting that Britain now relies heavily on other nations, particularly in Europe, to survive.
The least the country can do is pay back into Africa and Asia, where unrest is often a direct result of British colonial interference.
UKIP believes Britain can survive on its own, that plucky Blitz spirit and common-sense attitudes are enough to run a country. They aren't. And for the good of everything, from economics to culture, Britain has to remain part of the rest of the world.