A real taxpayers’ alliance

Adam Ramsay reports on the mass direct action at Topshop
5 December 2010

Protesters at Topshop



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.

Adam Ramsay is an activist, Green Party member, and co-editor of Bright Green



Adam Ramsay is an activist, Green Party member, and co-editor of Bright Green


 

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Helen 5 December 2010, 21.35

Great article Adam. I completely agree, with you – (most) of the people here are happy to pay tax, we are not selfish and uncaring unlike the Tea Party. Personally I’d be in favour of higher taxes and free services – prescriptions, school meals etc.
Keep up the good work!


Rachel 5 December 2010, 21.39

It was a fantastic day of action. It is important to get the workers of Arcadia etc to support the campaign: their jobs could be on the line. Some of the security guards barring one of the entrances to Oxford St Topshop looked mightily pissed off !


Simon Gibbs 5 December 2010, 21.56

I was there. I told you I disagreed. I clearly identified myself as a “free marketeer”. I tweeted about it afterwards, and yes, if you asked me “is taxation theft?” I’d have given you a firm “yes it is”.

I understand you can’t have spoken to all your activists outside Top Shop about every conversation they had, but then you shouldn’t be making such bold claims.


Richard Crook 5 December 2010, 22.20

Great article! There are plenty of us most doubtful about this government’s `progressive’ strategies and very willing to do something about it.


Adam 6 December 2010, 00.57

Hmmm. Wonder if these fine people (including, let us not forget, Polly Toynbee, who was at the TopShop protest) will be happy to go and have a shout outside the Guardian’s offices. Afterall, GMG engage in exactly the same ‘tax dodging’ methods as Phillip Green or Vodafone. Somehow, I doubt we’ll see any of these people there. Hypocrisy always was a talent of the left as much as the right.


Emma Boon 6 December 2010, 09.31

I’m not sure quite where to begin with this article it’s so riddled with old misconceptions and outright lies but here are two starting pointers:

1) “For months they’ve been holding meetings with senior figures from America’s Tea Party”

2) “…who have very few actual members, fewer of whom are sufficiently poor to bother paying taxes”

Adam, What’s your source for either of these claims? Because both are untrue!

1) We have 60,000 members – is that ‘very few’? Also I don’t know what they earn so not sure how you do, or how you think you know how much tax they pay!

2) This might help you understand why we are NOT about to start the Tea Party over here:

NB Spelling of Matthew Elliott’s name (double t)


james 6 December 2010, 11.29

Adam (comment leaver Adam, not blog post author Adam), when hundreds of people care about something and are prepared to go and protest in the winter cold for hours about it, I think its rather ridiculous to shout ‘hypocrite’ at them for not also devoting similar amounts of time to every other form of injustice in the world. And to refer to ‘the left’ as though this is a group of people who have some kind of collective policy and responsibility is also nonsense. Personally I know nothing about the tax affairs of the Guardian Media Group. Since you offer no evidence or detail, I’m not sure you do either, but if this issue becomes big enough that the government has to address it legally, that won’t just apply to Vodafone and Phillip Green, but to everyone.

I’d just like to also say that its really heartening that these protests have developed in the way that they have. They’ve continued to involve new people who have not been significantly involved in protest before, and really give the lie to the idea that public spending cuts are a necessity rather than an ideological choice. Well done to UK Uncut!


Adam Ramsay 6 December 2010, 11.43

Hello,

1) meetings with senior members of America’s Tea Party – a friend of mine chaired one of these meetings. And see, for eg:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/politics/7993781/TaxPayers-Alliance-seeks-advice-from-Tea-Party-movement-leaders.html

2): yes. 60,000 is a small number of members for an organisation who get as much press coverage as you do. RSPB, and Unite, for example, have more than a million members each.

On your funders:

For example, from The Guardian:

“David Alberto, co-owner of serviced office company Avanta, has donated Elliott and his 14 staff a suite in Westminster worth £100,000 a year because he opposes the level of tax on businesses. Alberto has an offshore family trust but said 90% of his wealth is in the UK, where he pays tax.” (http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/oct/09/taxpayers-alliance-conservative-pressure-group)

But I confess this much – despite demanding transparency from others, you refuse to tell anyone where you get your money from. You have close links, for example, with Lord Ashcroft, but I accept that, because you refuse to tell anyone where your money comes from, I can’t prove for sure how many of them are dodging tax. So, how’s this for a deal: If you publish your list of funders, and those who give donations in kind, in full, and none of them are dodging any significant quantity of tax, I will apologise and withdraw my statement. Most campaigning organisations I know of will happily tell you where they get their funding. Why won’t you?

Thanks,

Adam


Paul 10 December 2010, 23.11

Adam

I tried to ask the Taxpayers Alliance, in the spirit of Transparency and as a gesture of goodwill, what their employees earn. Especially when they were going after voluntary organisations such as the unions.

First they ignored me, then they replied.

Dear …
Thank you for your email. We believe that transparency is important where people are being compelled to provide the money – ie where taxpayers are forced to pay the public sector. As a private organisation funded by voluntary donations, our remuneration remains private. I can however assure you that one of us earn anywhere near enough to appear on the Rich List!

Best,

Mark

So no luck , I think the last paragraph has a typo
Paul



Comments are now closed on this article.






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