Taxing Times

As Cornwall braces itself for the autumn blast and the rich crop of blackberries begins to fall, the newspapers are full of glad tidings. We’re all going to be paying less taxes, the NHS is in the money, hundreds of thousands of affordable houses are on the way. At the same time there’ll be a crackdown on benefits, tough talk to the EU, free beer… In other words it’s conference time, the annual festival of Cobblers everywhere.
The all-time record for discredited promises goes to Mr Cameron. His speech finished in time for lunch and its contents were already exposed as nonsense (following astute questioning from Eddie Mair) by tea-time, before the dutiful support from the Tory Press had even been written. Hurray, tax cuts. When? That’ll be 2020, two elections away, when these newspaper celebrations will be lining kitchen drawers and today’s needs and costs will be as relevant as the Corn Laws. Can we count on it? Certainly, as long as Britain has by then “balanced its books”. To forecast that the Conservatives must have consulted Joan The Wad as even the most barking economist wouldn’t dream of putting a date on it. So the tax savings you read about are jam tomorrow depending on something less likely than winning the World Cup. Where’s the money coming from for those golden days? It would come, said the spokesperson possibly reading for a part in “ Shameless”, from an additional £25b – that’s £25,000,000,000 – of so-far-unspecified “savings”. Are they saying there are £25b of savings they know about but can’t yet be bothered to chase? No. We all know what they mean. What’s left to flog? The Royal Family? Scotland?
And a word on houses. The government doesn’t build houses, big building companies do. If an extra 100,000 are passed like Epsom Salts through what’s left of the Planning Laws don’t expect any favours for our children. It’s Tory holy writ that the Market decides, and the unregulated housing market doesn’t have a conscience.
UKIP had their day, whining that it was spoiled by the recall of parliament – apparently some local difficulty in the Middle East. Their speeches were irrelevant anyway. Everyone knows what UKIP stand for. Forget their still-wet manifesto, they feed on the repressed desire for a little light ethnic cleansing, giving a respectable voice to those who’d like to turn the clock back before the “Windrush” docked, when black faces were only seen in the National Geographic, when Poles were people we’d go to war for but wouldn’t expect to find living next door. Having such a narrow focus will take them far, flush out Cameron-hating Tories who long for some proper red-meat English supremacism, and split the right-wing vote down the middle.
Enter Ed. And he will. Despite his own disparaging references to Wallace – those with longer memories might think Bungle more appropriate – and a delivery style which is worryingly disconnected the odds are that it’ll be Ed who stretches his long legs down Downing Street next May. Back in with him will come those whose complacency allowed the country to slip to within inches of bankruptcy. The Labour Party are a mystery for most of us now, no longer dazzled by neo-Conservatism but unable to reach out to a working-class rump that doesn’t exist, their platform as woolly as a field of sheep. The jostling for influence behind Ed’s back must make Julius Caesar’s Forum look like a group hug. But they’ll get in anyway.
And finally, as they will be, the Lib Dems. They haven’t had their conference yet but they may as well save their expenses for the last-ditch struggle they have coming. Their inability to distinguish between loyalty and political suicide, resolutely following their accident-prone leader over a cliff, will serve them right. The lessons of the Roman Forum would have been helpful here but it’s too late now, and many good people will pay the penalty for their impotence.
My least favourite quote so far this season was Cameron’s, promising to reward those ‘doing the right thing’ i. e. going to work instead of claiming benefits. The fact that 50% of those on benefits are already ‘doing the right thing’ but still can’t afford to live should shame him and any true Conservative to silence. But enough already. Take away your rotten promises, put away the snake-oil and pipe down, the lot of you…

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