Ukip will try to cast itself as a serious political party by presenting a “fully costed” manifesto that pledges to help take the UK out of the European Union within two years and bring back the “primary purpose rule” scrapped by Labour that forced immigrants to prove their marriages to British citizens are genuine.
The party leader, Nigel Farage, will make a series of pledges on Wednesday that appeal to his core voters, including promises to impose strict limits on immigration, increase defence spending, cut rates for small businesses and abolish hospital parking charges.
Speaking in Essex, Farage will present his party as the only option that provides real change “for the first time in 100 years”.
On immigration, he will confirm the party would bring back the primary purpose rule scrapped by Labour in 1997, which was unpopular with many people because it meant foreign spouses and dependents of British citizens were prevented from entering the country.
At the time, then home secretary Jack Straw said it was being ended because “it is arbitrary, unfair and ineffective and has penalised genuine cases, divided families and unnecessarily increased the administrative burden on the immigration system”.
Farage’s other core pledges on immigration and the EU are not far off what the party promised in its 2010 manifesto, which Farage has since dismissed as “nonsense” and “drivel”.
Five years ago, the party wanted an absolute moratorium on immigration for five year; this has now been toned down to an ban on unskilled immigration plus an Australian-style points system to decide which skilled immigrants would be allowed to enter.
The old proposal for a 50,000 cap on immigration has also been slightly changed, with Farage saying he would like a range of “normality” of between 20,000 and 50,000, down from the current level of 300,000.
The party’s pledge on the EU is that there would be an immediate referendum and, “having won”, the UK would be able to leave within two years.
The rest of Ukip’s 2015 manifesto is expected to be more realistic in tone than the 2010 document, which made a series of bizarre pledges such as making the Circle line circular again and enforcing a dress code for taxi drivers.
It is likely to focus on tax cuts and big spending pledges, which Ukip claims would be made possible by slashing the £12bn foreign aid budget and no longer needing to pay its net £11bn-a-year contribution to the EU.
The party is promising to use this money to give £12bn to the NHS, £5bn to social care, fund a target of spending 2% of national income on defence, an extra 6,000 police, border staff and prison officers, and cut business rates.
The party also appears to have watered down its proposal to scrap stamp duty for homes built on brownfield sites, saying this would only apply to those worth less than £250,000.
A flavour of what the party will promise appears to have been released ahead of the launch by the Ukip Northern Ireland branch, which tweeted a copy.
During the campaign so far, Farage has struggled to break into the headlines with the Conservatives and Labour presenting the election as a straight choice between their party leaders as to who will be prime minister.
Amid polls suggesting Ukip’s national share of the vote is falling, Farage told a rally on Monday night: “There is a very big squeeze being put on Ukip with the presentation of a binary choice ... But neither of the big parties are going to be able to form a government.”
The Conservatives rubbished Ukip’s claims to have a written a “fully-costed” document. A spokesman said: “Ukip saying their numbers add up is like Labour saying they’re not going to raise your taxes. We all know that Nigel Farage doesn’t have a credible plan for Britain.”
Ukip is only expected to win a handful of seats at the election but could influence the overall result through its share of the vote in marginal seats.
A new study by the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute (SPERI) on Tuesday challenged the notion that Ukip poses the greatest threat to the Conservatives, arguing Labour may have “as much, if not more, to fear from the rise of the party”.
Dr Craig Berry, co-author of the report, said: “The argument that the Green party and Scottish National party will take votes from Labour, whilst Ukip will grow at the Conservatives’ expense, is too simplistic. Our analysis demonstrates that many prospective Ukip supporters reside in areas with high levels of deprivation, and as such Ukip may pose as great a threat to Labour as it does to the Conservatives.
“A significant swing of votes towards Ukip from Labour may not lead to Ukip winning a large number of seats in these areas, but could nevertheless alter the balance of support within constituencies so that other parties are able to challenge Labour more effectively.”
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