Ukip is now a major party. Well, that’s the view of broadcasting regulator Ofcom ahead of the European elections in May.
This status entitles leader Nigel Farage and his chums to equal television coverage as the three main political parties during the election campaign.
Since Ukip performed far better than expected in the May local elections last year Money Marketing has been reporting on the party more closely.
It has a significant cohort of nine MEPs and has demonstrated a major influence on the national debate over the EU and immigration.
It has also consistently polled more than the Liberal Democrats for more than a year.
However, I still get asked whether it should be treated as a serious party on financial services matters. So, let’s look at what they have actually done.
Last year, economic spokesman and MEP Godfrey Bloom was kicked out of the party for branding a room full of women “sluts” and hitting a journalist over the head with a magazine.
Last August, a Money Marketing investigation exposed the shocking turnout record of Ukip MEPs to votes and negotiations over key financial services rules.
Ukip says its main aim is to exit the EU so it has no desire to engage with the nitty gritty of EU rules.
Then there is the domestic agenda for financial services.
Ukip says it would like to scrap the RDR despite the years of turmoil advisers have endured to be able to continue to trade today. It says it would conduct a “thorough review” before it was scrapped.
Ukip’s newly appointed economic spokesman Steven Woolfe has actually gone further and called for the abolition of all financial regulation.
Speaking at the Institute of Economic Affairs event at the Ukip conference in Birmingham in September 2012, he said: “I would abolish the Bank of England. I would abolish the FCA and ignore the Prudential Regulation Authority we have. Get rid of regulation completely in financial services.”
Today, he says this was his personal view at the time and not official Ukip policy.
Ukip is also seriously considering a call to scrap state pensions and replace it with a system of personal pensions pots.
Pensions experts have slammed the reforms as being “incoherent” and would take hundreds of years to enact.
Its record on policy and performance in the last few years has been on the fringes and not take seriously by mainstream policymakers, so why listen to them?
Ukip would say it is smashing the cosy consensus with a radical agenda on pensions and regulation. It has also appointed an IFA as a key economic adviser to address issues for small business.
The party is expected to significantly add to its nine MEPs and may even top the European Parliament elections in May. This could provide serious clout in European rule-making.
Ukip’s popularity has forced the Conservatives to push for an in/out EU referendum and a tougher line on immigration. Prime Minister David Cameron is reportedly only retaining pensioner benefits such as winter fuel allowance to prevent a further haemorrhaging of grey votes to Ukip.
And the national political landscape can change quickly. Who thought the Lib Dems would ever be in Government?
One pensions expert says: “I remember speaking to an unknown backbench MP a few years ago who was setting out radical ideas which I thought had no chance of becoming reality. A few years later and he is the pensions minister [Steve Webb].”
This tale shows advisers, and their trade bodies and lobbyists, that whatever you think of their ideas the rising status of Ukip merits closer inspection.
Samuel Dale is politics reporter at Money Marketing – you can follow him on Twitter here