Pity the Taxpayers Alliance – on UK Uncut and Top Shop
This piece first appeared over at Red Pepper
Pity the Taxpayers’ Alliance. For months they’ve been holding meetings with senior figures from America’s Tea Party. They thought they were about to kick start a popular movement against taxes in the UK – a grassroots movements powered by angry people fed up with paying through the teeth for a failed socialist experiment.
Unfortunately for the Taxpayers’ Alliance, this isn’t quite how people in Britain see public services. Rather than building a movement to bring Britain to the brink of a pro-cuts, anti-tax revolution, the Alliance – who have very few actual members, fewer of whom are sufficiently poor to bother paying taxes, but get more press coverage than any other campaigning organisation in Britain – have been completely outmanoeuvred by a small crowd of scruffy young activists with a twitter account, experience of direct action, an eye for a good story, and a few copies of Private Eye.
You can just feel Alliance chief Matthew Elliot’s frustration yesterday. The angry rabble he’d hoped to see descended not on ‘wasteful’ hospitals, or ‘sponging’ teachers, but on the high street chains it’s his job to protect. Three hundred of us converged in Oxford Street, London branch of Topshop, shouting slogans about how owner Philip Green must pay his share ‘where did all the money go? He sent it off to Monaco’, ‘unless you pay your tax we’ll shut you down’ … etc. Once it was shut, we proceeded on to other members of his empire – BHS and Dorothy Perkins, and other tax dodgers Boots and Vodafone.
And, at the same time, people all over the country – many who had never joined a protest before – responded similarly to the call that UKUncut had put out, and more than 20 tax-dodging stores saw protests: ‘unless you pay your tax, we’ll shut you down’.
Despite what Mr Taylor has been allowed to imply ad infunitum in the national media, no one who saw our protest; none of the shoppers inconvenienced by our friends across the country – in fact not a single passer by – responded by telling us that all tax is theft, or that wealth creators should be rewarded for the risk they take.
In fact, they responded by applauding, smiling, giving us pizza, or even joining in. Even the Mail on Sunday has responded by launching a campaign for Kraft to pay British taxes – the Mail? Poor Matthew Elliot!
Because the truth is that people in Britain value our public services. We are happy to pay taxes to support them. We just think that everyone should pay their fair share. And loony neo-liberals may be able to seem representative when they buy media coverage to spout nonsense that only reflects the interests of millionaires. But when faced with real movements of pissed off people, their facade fades fast. And as it does, so too will the false consensus that brutal cuts – any cuts – are needed. And as that media narrative unravels, so, too, could this disastrous government.