Three elections in four years have made a mockery of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act (2011) and seen a Brexit Referendum (2016) be all but forgotten this general election campaign despite it being the reason for its being called. Tired of Brexit people have focused on the NHS, the Police, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, the trustworthiness of the leaders and other politicians who more often than not are no shows, empty-chaired, or downright refuse to engage with the electorate or debates. Trust and truth are the two casualties of this election and we may never get them back.
Brexit began this all with big lies on the side of a bus, Whoppers even! Now the lies are everywhere and nobody knows what to believe.
Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics
Policing numbers, nurses, the NHS, new hospitals, fast or free nationalised broadband, 2 billion trees, Brexit will be brilliant or Brexit will be a disaster, crime will go up or down – which numbers can be trusted? An unprecedented number of candidates have had to drop out for things they are saying or said in the past about women, Jews, Muslims, their own colleagues and parties – indeed it is unheard of for so many MPs to be switching allegiances, standing as independents or saying to vote against their own leaders or party positions.
I trained in Economics and Statistics at UCL but it may as well have been Politics, Philosophy and Economics for the misuse of statistics has become a political art. Another reason I chose a BSc over a BA was thinking that one was a science and the other a dark art. These days it is pure artifice with Dominic Cummings dropping dead cats to the gullible or worse still, complicit media.
As fast as a politician is caught in the act of lying or showing no care the spin machine drops a distraction – or dead cat news story. Deadcatting aims to divert discussion away from a more politically damaging topic and has been happening almost daily this campaign.
“A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” – Winston Churchill
No segue intended here but Adolf Hitler, in Mein Kampf, wrote that:
“in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie…” – Mein Kampf, vol. I, ch. X (1925)
It is said that Joseph Goebbels was the proponent of telling a lie so big enough and repeating it that people would eventually and inevitably come to believe in it – so long as the State can shield the people from the political and economic consequences of the lie. (Brexit anyone?) Truth, therefore, becomes the greatest enemy of the State and a Ministry of Truth is required to perpetuate the lie and counter the truth.
In fact, Goebbels proposed that Churchill was the big liar and had a Lügenfabrik or “lie factory”.
“The essential English leadership secret does not depend on particular intelligence. Rather, it depends on a remarkably stupid thick-headedness. The English follow the principle that when one lies, one should lie big, and stick to it. They keep up their lies, even at the risk of looking ridiculous.” – Joseph Goebbels (1941)
In the USA, JFK also pointed out the potency of repeating lies till they become ingrained as myth masquerading as truth.
“No matter how big the lie; repeat it often enough and the masses will regard it as the truth.” – John F. Kennedy
The slow news outlet Tortoise has called them “big little lies” this General Election 2019 campaign.
“of 95 claims that were fact-checked during the election campaign, 77 turned out to be untrue.” – Tortoise
Tell the Truth
“In a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” – George Orwell
“Political language – and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists – is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” – George Orwell
Recent analysis has found that 88% of online ads posted recently by the Conservatives contained content that had already been deemed misleading or false by a third party factchecker, Full Fact. That number for the opposition? 0%.
“And at Christmas you tell the truth” was the Love Actually prompt card that Dominic Cummings and Boris Johnson couldn’t in any sincerity include in their spin on the Richard Curtis film Love Actually (2003), because, you know, lies…not only that but this dead cat is a copy cat of Labour MP Dr Rosena Allin-Khan’s parody video from 3 weeks ago.
If Boris Johnson wins the #GE2019 it will be on an unprecedented foundation of lies and “truth avoidance”. The Brexit Referendum was founded on untruths and whoppers on the side of a bus. So too this election. Speak truth to power and take a stand #NotMyGovernment!
The war of words, or even war of the worldviews, continues apace over Britain’s relationship with Europe. The Battle of Brexit has already seen Dunkirkesque fishing fleets with Bob Geldof and Nigel Farage traversing the Thames and shouting at each other! Rather than resigning ourselves to the inevitable the Blitz spirit of Remainers has been to stubbornly resist Brexit whilst a small number of Leavers have threatened Guy Fawkesesque revolution if it doesn’t proceed as planned. ‘Planned’ is probably too strong a word for the most disorderly unplanned unmitigated disaster of an attempt to pull out of the EU that might see rebuilding UK supply and trade options more like a Scrapheap Challenge looking for parts here and there rather than being content in the existing roadworthy vehicle.
Tory MP and former International Development Secretary, Priti Patel, has actually suggested using possible Irish food shortages post-Brexit as a threat to get a better deal. She’s clearly not read, “How to win friends and influence people”.
Additionally, the Government is preparing for mass immigration following a No Deal scenario. Yes, immigration! As the free movement of ex-pats, mostly of retirement age, seek to return to the UK if reciprocal EU residence rights are not agreed. Over a million people could return putting pressure on the NHS, taking our jobs, applying for benefits – oh wait wasn’t that the Leave argument? But these ‘foreigners’ all speak English and we can’t tell them to “Go Home” as the UK is their ‘home’ (as it is for all those who have settled here).
The false stereotypes of Britishness and ‘foreignness’ are aptly illustrated in the recent revelation by star spinner – not political but cricket, Moeen Ali that he had a white British grandmother called Betty Cox. Birmingham-born Ali could not be more British in terms of cricket, but the chess-playing all-rounder also acknowledges his Pakistani heritage – something that down-under he was taunted about when called ‘Osama’ by Australian sledgers.
As part of her charm offensive (either an oxymoron or a transposition of ‘offensive charm’) D-Day Theresa has dispatched 30 Tory MPs around the country to persuade people to adopt her T-for-Terrible Brexit Deal rather than N-for-Nobody wants it No Deal. The deal is heading for defeat and two words that should not be attached to Tory door-knocking, “charm offensive”, are only going to piss off the public – who can’t even vote on the Parliamentary debate.
Better a Dunkirk spirit of knowing when to retreat from a bad situation. May is too stubborn and fighting for her own survival which she sees as contingent upon showing strength and resolve, whereas true leadership also knows how to lead a hasty retreat from a mistake unlike the Charge of the Light Brigade disaster ahead of us.
“I knew Winston Churchill, I worked with him, I stayed with him at his home at Chartwell and I have read his speeches many times. I can assure you that Winston Churchill was no Euro-sceptic.” – Former Prime Minister, Edward Heath, 1996
Whilst we tread choppy waters on our quitting of the EU or even quitting the process of leaving so we remain, keeping up? UKIP are quitting their party – founded to quit the EU – in droves. The latest UKwitters include David Coburn and Paul Nuttall who join Nigel Farage, Suzanne Evans and others in quitting UKIP.
UKIP membership of around 23,000 is now half its 46,000 peak just prior to the EU Referendum. That such a small party – and an increasingly right-wing one at that, has influenced a generational change in our relationship with Europe is a testament to the ongoing divide between Eurosceptics and Europhile “citizens of Europe”.
It’s ironic that UKIP is collapsing after bringing about the Brexit vote by striking fear into the hearts of Tories and David Cameron that their voter base was quitting to join UKIP. For its members to be now calling it too extremist with Tommy Robinson, riddled with Islamophobia and thuggery, makes one wonder why the Tories were so afraid of an extremist minority. Had David Cameron just waited it would have imploded anyway like the BNP or EDL and Brexit needn’t have happened.
Indeed, a UKIP tweet now has 39,000 votes in their own echo-chamber (but being tweeted widely now) showing 32% support for No Deal Brexit but 66% support for No Brexit!
If the British People were forced to vote on Leaving the EU again how would you vote? Retweet for a good sample size please.
Current polling “suggests that people continue to prefer remaining in the EU to the deal (Remain 46%(+3), Leave with the deal 37%(+3)) and that in a choice between the deal or leaving without one, they’d go for no deal (No deal 41%(+7), deal 35%(+3)). This leaves us in a bit of a quandary. People narrowly approve of the deal and think MPs should approve it… but they also prefer both of the two obvious alternatives to the deal. For the record, the poll also finds people in favour of a new referendum on the deal by 48% to 34%.”
“This week it is Parliament that will take back control. We have mixed oil and water by imposing on our Parliamentary system a referendum result. And, of course, Parliament must respect that. It is now for the House of Commons to decide how to proceed in the light of all that has happened…” – Andrew Mitchell MP
Even Brexiteers believe in the sovereignty of Parliament, or should do at least, it is democratically elected and sovereign, more so than the Queen or EU. So, what Parliament does next is critical. It is clear, though, that Parliament is overwhelmingly against a bad Deal that they cannot sell to their constituencies.
Tuesday’s “meaningful vote” is Parliamentary Democracy over Plebiscite Referendum – which was something of a meaningless vote, given the lies and gross simplicity without understanding context or consequences, and only offered for political expediency by Cameron to stave off votes leaching to UKIP who are now falling apart anyway.
I voted Remain and I still feel more European than British, a global citizen, part of the forward thinking age of inclusion, diversity, and multiculturalism. I try to take the best human parts of globalisation from its worst capitalist components. BBC Look East interviewed me today about Brexit to go out on the evening news tonight, unlike the poor BBC coverage of the 100,000 march in London last week, at least local news are covering people’s views about Article 50 and concerns for their fellow Europeans living locally who feeling like political pawns, now entering 2 years of uncertainty for their families and jobs.
A new politics
As Britain triggers Article 50, Leave & Remain are the new dividing lines tearing up the old political party Left & Right rule book. Nationalism (good and bad), and broader consensus politics that is pro-internationalism, pro-migrants, more concerned about others than self, believing in the need for a rainbow coalition rather than party first electioneering. Being pro-EU has become a new political movement, just as UKIP was anti-EU. When Tory old guarders like Michael Heseltine are on the same side as Labour and LibDem remainers, you know something has shifted.
Article 50 “the biggest sacrifice of British sovereignty and self-interest that I can remember…losing control over the conditions in which British companies trade and operate in our biggest market…all the stuff about gaining sovereignty, putting ourselves in charge, will be exposed for the hypocrisy that it was…” – Michael Heseltine
Norwich, which voted 56% Remain and feels like more because of its welcoming attitude to foreign nationals who quickly feel at home here, is also home to Archant newspapers and their New European newspaper launch. A paper for the 48%, for those anti-Brexit, anti-Trump, anti-Le Pen and the direction some politics are going.
The resistance to change, not only from Remainers not wanting to seemingly go backwards, is evident in the unexpected 52% who voted Leave, who had many reasons for their decision. Among them, legal sovereignty, immigration, and yes some xenophobic racism, but perhaps for many a preference for traditional Britain, without too much further integration of diverse peoples, cultures, languages and the changing landscape that comes with it. The Remain campaign emphasised economics in their failed “Project Fear” advertising and yet just 2% of Leavers cited economics as the reason for their vote. Vote Leave had its own issues around false advertising – we’re still waiting for that mythical £350m a week for the soon to be lacking EU workers NHS. Both Leave and Remain campaigns were riddled with lies, damned lies, and statistics that led to project fear of immigrants v project fear of economic loss.
“We’re going to build a stronger, fairer Britain” – Theresa May
Fairer to whom, Britain first? Stronger for whom, against those who are already weak?
I remain worried about the narrative of “Britain First, make Britain Great again” which echoes Trumpism, and its anti-migrant, xenophobic language, building walls not bridges, pulling up the drawbridge and retreating to an island mentality, pre-WWII, pre-globalisation’s understanding of this internet and fast travel age.
I remain concerned about the new dividing lines, of Leave and Remain, instead of a unity that was continentally broader than our small sceptred isle. We are now fighting among ourselves to keep the Kingdom United. Scotland has every right to leave, as we have voted to leave the EU. I’d rather Scotland stayed, I’d rather the UK stayed within the EU, but I’ll support Scotland’s right to leave, does that make me a hypocrite, perhaps, it certainly makes Theresa May one for pushing through Brexit but blocking and delaying #IndyRef2.
“We are one great union of peoples and nations” – Theresa May
At a recent ComRes polls Brexit Britain data event it was revealed that of those that thought the following were negative factors for ill in society, the majority were Leave voters:
When 70-80% of the people who essentially oppose diversity and equality, and the modern global movement and communication age, are Leave voters, you can see why age, education and tradition factors were so prominent in voting intention.
Once in a lifetime decision
Age, education and rural versus urban dwellers, were the demographics most prominent in those that voted Leave. Take the vote again in even 5-10 years and the majority would probably vote Remain. Sadly, Article 50 is a once in a generation vote, although nothing is stopping us from applying to rejoin in the future, it would never be the great economic deal we once had.
As much as World War One and Two, were drawn up along divided national lines, the European Union provided the opposite. A unity of nations bringing prosperity and preserving peace from once warring nations. Indeed, Winston Churchill had called for a “United States of Europe” although did not see Britain as a part of it. The Council of Europe (1949) in turn led to the European Coal and Steel Community (1952) and to the Treaty of Rome forming the European Economic Community (1957).
I’m pragmatic about the future and still believe that at an individual, local, and national level we can speak positively to the benefits of European and international freedom of movement, exchange of ideas, culture, education and the arts.
Business will always find a way to make the best of it, we’re a nation of entrepreneurs and shopkeepers (as Napoleon or Adam Smith once said), my concern is for the people, the students, partners, migrants, artists, and the leavers – ironically, many of whom may be the worse off for Brexit.
Hundreds of people in Norwich turned out to protest President Donald Trump‘s temporary immoral executive order banning Muslims from 7 countries (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen) entering the USA. One arrest was made, and the demonstration was otherwise peaceful with a diverse range of speakers and banners from the humorous to the very serious.
Perhaps, the best said it simplest, a woman in a headscarf whose placard read “judge me by what is in my head not what is on my head”.
Nobody is saying that ISIL’s dangerous ideology shouldn’t be countered, or that terrorists should be denied entry, but to blanket ban seven nations, marking them guilty before a trial, particularly when they are not in the top 25 nationalities that have threatened or attacked US citizens is disproportionate and against the founding charters of America that welcome immigrants, and don’t discriminate based upon religion and race.
Nobody is saying that ISIL’s dangerous ideology shouldn’t be countered, or that terrorists should be denied entry, but to blanket ban seven nations, marking them guilty before a trial, based upon nationality and religion alone, particularly when they are not in the top 25 nationalities that have threatened or attacked US citizens is disproportionate and against the founding charters of America that welcome immigrants, and don’t discriminate based upon religion.
The mood was far from damp, with resounding cries of:
“Say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here”
If anything, it was the hundreds of comments on the EDP online and Mustard TV posts that made me realise why we do this. The spewing of hate and Britain first, echoing Donald Trump’s election manifesto of America first. I talked afterwards to two Donald Trump and Brexit supporters, teenage girls from City College, they had no problem with elitist, nationalist, selfish, protectionist policies, though our debate soon turned to mental health and we had a good conversation.
I was interviewed by Robbie West of BBC Look East, Emma Knights of the EDP, and ended up on a Mustard TV live stream. ITV Anglia also reported on the event. Good coverage and continuing to remind me of how great Norwich is, in the main, and after so many political protests and pro-migrant rallies over the last year it shows the strength of feeling in communities, both pro and anti.
Katy Jon Went speech text
The 7 nation Muslim visa and refugee ban was signed on Holocaust Memorial Day, a day when the Whitehouse chose to #alllivesmatter the victim list by not mentioning Jews and homosexuals at all.
The fear that LGBT people may have their Obama-won state protections removed has also been concerning people, even if that comes to nothing, people are living in fear and anxious times. America’s biggest terror massacre since 9/11 was by an American, albeit the son of an Afghan immigrant – but not on Trump’s ban list, who traveled back and forth to Saudi Arabia – also not on the list, before killing 49 people, mainly Latinos, in the Orlando Pulse club shooting. No connection to the seven nation ban list.
Despite the so-called British exemption, Iranian-born but raised in Italy and doing post-grad veterinary studies at the University of Glasgow, Dr Hamaseh Tayari was denied US-leg travel by the presidential executive order, the extra flights avoiding America cost £2600 however, public response raised more than double that via crowdfunding with the excess going to the Scottish Refugee Council. That is one way we can help. Similar to the folk providing food and funds, and many lawyers offering pro-bono free advice at airports across America. Lawyers are saying that “It’s not lawful to ban immigrants on the basis of nationality” but judges and others unwilling to enforce it are being replaced.
Speaking about the ‘Muslim’ travel block and its effect on the vet student, the University of Glasgow’s principal said:
“The free movement of people, of ideas, of intellect is surely the very hallmark of civilized society.” – Professor Anton Muscatelli, Principal of the University of Glasgow
Indeed, America and its innovations and inventions are built on immigrants, not just the last century or so, but even those that first came to America, those pilgrim fathers and conquering Catholic explorers of different faiths to the established indigenous inhabitants. Indeed 7 nations of foreign religious immigrants from the early Norse to the British, Dutch, French, Spanish, German, Irish and even Russians (Kodiak Island) came to America and populated it, and far from peacefully.
Blocking immigrants now is hypocrisy and against its founding principles. Take the inscription on the Statue of Liberty:
“Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; … Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me…”
The Quebec mosque attack last weekend that left 6 dead and 8 injured was not by Muslims, but of Muslims. First reports drew attention to the fact that one of those arrested was from Morocco, another fake news story from a pro-Trump reddit said they were Syrian refugees, but not the truth that the sole perpetrator, killer, terrorist, turned out to be a far right, anti-feminist, anti-immigrant and Trump supporting white supremacist inspired by Donald Trump and Marine Le Pen of Front Nacionale of France:
“Friends and those who knew him online said he had extreme political beliefs, but was not known to be violent. Eric Debroise said he called police after the shooting and told them Alexandre Bissonnette is “very right and (an) ultra nationalist white supremacist,” the French-language newspaper Le Journal de Quebec reports. “He really liked Trump and had a permanent discontent with the left.””
Will Donald Trump now block Canadians visiting the US, or won’t it matter if the victims are other Muslims and the aggressors other American continent citizens?
11,000 are killed on US soil each year at the hands of US citizens, black and white, Christian and Muslim. More toddlers than terrorists kill Americans. Ban guns not Muslims.
ISIS kills more Muslims than Christians and more people from the seven barred nations than American citizens. How many Americans you ask?
Even if we include attacks and plots with no fatalities, then just 20 refugees out of 3 and a quarter million have been convicted over 40 years, that’s just 0.0006%, which is statistically zero anyway. An American is 250 times more likely to be killed or murdered by other means than by a foreign-born terrorist.
“the order appears to have been rushed through without full consideration. You know, there are many, many nuances of immigration policy that can be life or death for many innocent, vulnerable people around the world.”
Even Donald Trump admitted it was a “ban”, announced in his best official and professional sounding statesman-like way on Twitter:
If the ban were announced with a one week notice, the “bad” would rush into our country during that week. A lot of bad “dudes” out there!
Another US Republican senator and former Presidential candidate, John McCain said:
“Our most important allies in the fight against ISIL are the vast majority of Muslims who reject its apocalyptic ideology of hatred. This executive order sends a signal, intended or not, that America does not want Muslims coming into our country. That is why we fear this executive order may do more to help terrorist recruitment than improve our security.”
Even Mike Pence the Republican VP denounced it in 2015 when Obama was advised to do something similar but less extreme:
Calls to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. are offensive and unconstitutional.
Yes we need to be careful calling this an “all Muslim” ban or saying it came only from Donald Trump, as Obama’s advisors first drew up the list but as amendmends to the pre-existing Visa Waiver Program. The new ban cancels the visa themselves, rather than requiring them.
Wherever it started, it’s where it ends that worries me. “Theresa The Appeaser” came back from America and Foreign Secretary Boris ‘the joke’ Johnson announced British exceptions to the rules – just like Chamberlain’s futile appeasement attempts in 1938.
“An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.” – Winston Churchill
I can appreciate the irony of standing under Hitler’s favourite balcony, Norwich City Hall, protesting. We do need to attack the policies not the person, appreciate the complexities of their origins, and not demonise the man, reference mental health and little hands, that plays into the insecure dictator psyche and adds fuel to Trump supporters that we don’t hear their concerns.
Just as with Brexit true communal change can only come about with all parties engaged, remainers and leavers, Democrats and Republicans, Labour, Tory and the rest. We underestimated the fears of leavers and Trump supporters that led to them winning society changing votes that will affect the next 4-5 years or more.
I would commend peaceful and polite protest, therefore, but without passive appeasement. The women’s march saw millions gather because it was peaceful. Better to let Trump visit the UK and then have a protest he can witness the size of feeling at. Unrest and civil disobedience are always a later option.
If anything similar were to ever happen here as some Brexit supporters and Nigel Farage have called for, then I’m with Madeleine Albright (a Czech immigrant to the US and former Secretary of State) and would register as a Muslim to demonstrate solidarity, before they list any other categories of people that need rounding up or banning.
Resist the ban, welcome refugees, and provide practical and legal support where you can, illegal support if it ever comes to it! It’s open mosque day this Sunday – go to one.
I am reminded of another of Churchill’s statements that diplomacy does not mean friendship with another state acting immorally towards its people and demonising groups within it. It reinforces the dangerous moral path Theresa May treads in appearing as Donald Trump’s greatest foreign ally.
“You must have diplomatic and correct relations, but there can never be friendship between the British democracy and the Nazi power, that power which spurns Christian ethics, which cheers its onward course by a barbarous paganism, which vaunts the spirit of aggression and conquest, which derives strength and perverted pleasure from persecution, and uses, as we have seen, with pitiless brutality the threat of murderous force. That power cannot ever be the trusted friend of the British democracy.”
It seems everything is taxed these days, from bedrooms to tampons, oversized coffins and even death itself. Death and taxes, not the punk song by Kid Dynamite, nor the debut 1941 novel by accountant David Dodge about a tax expert and reluctant detective James ‘Whit’ Whitney, but those certainties first twinned by Christopher Bullock in his 1716 Cobbler of Preston, and no, it was not Mark Twain, either:
“’Tis impossible to be sure of anything but death and taxes!”
In 1724’s Dancing DevilsEdward Ward wrote of their certainty:
“Death and Taxes, they are certain.”
That devilish certainty was repeated by Daniel Defoe in his 1726 Political History of the Devil:
“Things as certain as Death and Taxes, can be more firmly believ’d.”
More familiar, perhaps is the reference by Benjamin Franklin in a letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy, in the year of the French Revolution, 1789.
“Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”
Margaret Mitchell added a third inconvenience in her 1936 book Gone With the Wind:
“Death, taxes and childbirth! There’s never any convenient time for any of them.”
Will Rogers quipped that:
“The only difference between death and taxes is that death doesn’t get worse every time Congress meets.”
Death from Taxes
Of the two certainties in life, death and taxes, there are as many curious taxes as causes of death, indeed some of the former may be brought about by the latter. Government austerity cuts, a kind of reverse taxation but cutting benefits, can lead to deaths too – suicides, illness, and accidental – as one listener to BBC Radio 4 pointed out this week, having a DWP fitness for work interview pass you as fit when you suffer from blackouts and then you get a job as a driver and plough down innocent pedestrians in a dustbin lorry, for example.
My favourite misguided tax is still the window tax, not the Windows tax – the cost of bundling Microsoft Windows with all new PCs. The 1696 tax is still much in evidence today by bricked up 17th-18th century building windows. Allegedly it is the origin of the term “daylight robbery”, and only repealed in 1851 after complaints that it was a “tax on health”, and a “tax on light and air”. Just like income tax there was a tax-free allowance of 6-8 windows. The origins of the first council tax, in fact, with property bands based upon the number of windows – so people cheated and bricked up their windows – when they could afford the bricks.
The Brick Tax
Thank god, not on Lego, but on bricks and taxed at manufacturing source on the builders during the revenue-raising needs of the Napoleonic and American Wars and after up until 1850. It was charged per brick so canny builders increased the size of them until the government of the day capped the maximum size of a brick by law. Clever tax avoidance is not a modern phenomena restricted to Amazon, Apple, Ebay, Google, Starbucks, Vodafone etc.
The Hat Tax
Another means of funding wars was the hat tax, which was essentially on the wealthy. Nonetheless milliners found ways round it, reclassifying their headgear leading to a legal definition of a hat in 1804, or faking the tax labels at great risk as hat tax avoidance could merit the death penalty – something to reconsider for Apple and Amazon?
The Hearth Tax
The late 17th century hearth and stove tax on heating and fireplaces served to take from the necessities of life to provide for the luxuries of life of King Charles II.
The Wallpaper Tax
Introduced under Queen Anne in 1712 but ran for 124 years on preprinted and painted wallpaper at least. This led to artistic ingenuity and spontaneous on-site stenciling on plain papers by creative builders and decorators.
The Soap Tax
The “mischievous and vexatious” soap tax raised as much as alcohol duty does today. It ran for 142 years until its repeal in 1853. It was levied upon the weight of soap not its quality or value and thus disproportionately affected the poor and prejudiced their cleanliness and overall health. It became a slave trade issue under William Gladstone who abolished it in favour of a less distorted market in African palm oil products.
“AMONGST our numerous taxes, this is one of the worst. It is levied on an article essential both to cleanliness and health; it is very unequal; for whilst the duty adds two thirds to the price of the coarse soap which the poor man uses, it becomes trivial when levied on the refined and scented soaps of the rich. It combines in itself, and that to a considerable extent, two of the most objectionable elements in taxation: duties are laid upon all the raw materials of its manufacture, and then a heavy duty, both mischievous and vexatious, is levied upon the manufactured commodity, the effect of the regulations under which it is collected being to encourage smuggling, and to shut out all improvement in the legitimate trade.” – The Spectator, 27 April 1833
A Beard Tax
A tax on beards – a surefire way to raise money today out of coiffured lumbersexuals – was apparently a myth. Razors and shaving items are, however, taxed at 20% which is actually a tax on non-beards!
A Tampon Tax
Yes, unlike beards but not shaving, they are taxed – albeit at a reduced rate of 5% rather than the 20% VAT on other allegedly non-medically necessary health and sanitary care products. That they should be taxed at all is a scandal, but it is a false argument to compare them to men’s sanitary products, despite shaving being a choice and bleeding, not one, since men’s grooming products are mostly charged at 20%.
Variations on this have been around since time immemorial. Censuses make it possible. The Peasants’ Revolt of 1381 opposed it as did the people’s revolt of 1990, i.e., the UK ‘Poll Tax’ riots under Margaret Thatcher. After the Black Death took out half the population there was a shortage of supply and increased opportunities for the surviving working population. This led to socio-economic upward mobility and a power shift towards labourers, something the property classes did not like. War with France needed finance and so repeated taxes on every adult were applied and raised. The second poll tax was actually quite fair based upon seven different English classes, and taxing the wealthiest upper classes the most. It was broadly evaded and avoided though and raised little, prompting a third flat rate tax on everyone, which was the one that caused the lower classes to rebel.
The Council Tax
Coming in as allegedly more progressive than the infamous headcount Poll Tax or Community Charge, the Council Tax is often raised for reform as the values of houses and banding have changed so radically since its inception and a review is well overdue. Adding additional higher bands would be an excellent tax on property, but it is the people with property that make the decisions and they are reticent.
The Bedroom Tax
Or “Spare Room Subsidy” as politicians on one side of the House tried to label it, but like the Poll Tax, the colloquial name stuck. It is a reduction in benefit, another tax by stealth, on housing benefit for having an alleged excess of bedrooms – leading to attempts to redefine the smallest room as a box room and uninhabitable. Of course private tenants, were already receiving reduced benefits for living alone as brought in under Labour. Council social housing tenants were not affected until the Conservatives applied similar but not identical rules to them. it cruelly and disproportionately affected the disabled and their carers, the elderly keeping a spare room for family, and families with those in the forces rendered unable to maintain a room at home for them.
The Inheritance Tax
This is at one at the same time the fairest and unfairest tax. It is a kind of tax on death itself, a double taxation on property acquired through previously taxed income and expenditure, since there is also a Stamp Duty Tax on property purchase. Whilst it is blatantly an unethical double taxation, it is obviously affordable, though the rich circumvent it and the asset rich, cash poor are most affected by being unable to pass on a family home without selling up.
Tax Evasion and Avoidance
The more you have, the easier it is to avoid responsibility and requirement. The irony of public ownership is the duty to shareholders to maximise profit and minimise tax on commercial enterprises. Artfully called tax avoidance or reduction, or even tax flight, only tax evasion is technically illegal. The rest, many regard as unethical. As Plato said, that avoidance is unjust.
“When there is an income tax, the just man will pay more and the unjust less on the same amount of income.”
Taxes are necessary evils, originally bought in to finance wars rather than the welfare state. Tax collectors and money lenders are oft caricatured as evil themselves. In some countries, Hijra trans people are employed to shame and embarrass people into paying their taxes.
A number of Middle Eastern countries have just bought in taxes for the first time with the price of oil at a recent low meaning that they cannot live off their natural assets.
Competing economists and politicians have argued for a low flat rate tax that is paid by all and encourages compliance and simplicity versus complex and graduated taxes on income and wealth which are often avoided. From Churchill to Thatcher many have argued that lower taxes encourage prosperity and allegedly raise more revenues.
“It is a paradoxical truth that tax rates are too high today and tax revenues are too low, and the soundest way to raise the revenues in the long run is to cut the tax rates.” – John F. Kennedy
“For a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.” – Winston Churchill
The UK tax handbook runs to thousands of pages, wouldn’t a simple flat tax be better? Even if it were true, it would raise prosperity for all, in an uneven, unfair way.
Taxes on consumption of alcohol and tobacco, fuel and certain foods, are the easiest to administer but fall heaviest on the poor.
No tax seems fair and more of us want to live off-grid, bringing back barter and local exchanged trading schemes as alternates to taxable currency, income and purchases, until, that is, we use a road, call the police, or need the NHS and wonder how we pay for it? The better the life we want, the more we will need taxes to pay for it, and the less we can rely on diminishing natural resources to prop up the state. Taxes are about responsibility and being wealthy enough to be income taxed at least means being better off than those that live below the minimum income tax bracket. I’d love to be rich enough to have to pay a 40-50% tax on higher income levels!