Writing about religion or politics is normally guaranteed to offend. But, as my readership is not that huge, I’m going to take a risk and, as a change from retirement, books, cinema and metal detecting, today I’m going to be a bit political.
The last few days have been a blur of grief and funeral arrangements. But somewhere in the background there has been an unremitting sense of the Government undergoing some sort of calamity. Is this proof that the Coalition is a bunch of idiots or is it perhaps further evidence (if any were needed) that our country’s media will print or say anything to sell papers or attract an audience?
As a lifelong Guardian reader you would expect me to glory in the ridicule heaped upon Cameron and his Government but I’ve always read that newspaper because I respect the quality of the writing rather than sympathise with all of its views.
Let’s look at some of the topics that have caused the media to mock Number 10 with banner headlines and satirical lampooning cartoons.
Pastygate. When I was working, the lads in our factory often popped down to the local chippy for some fish and chips at dinner time and they paid VAT on them. On the odd occasion they’d enjoy a Chinese and pay VAT on it. Now and then they’d go to the bakers and buy a hot pasty….. and pay no VAT. Seems a bit daft doesn’t it? Three types of hot dinner – two taxable, one not. If you consider that the biggest seller of hot pasties in the country is probably the multi billion pound operation that is Greggs The Bakers it seems an anomaly that they should have a price advantage over Chips Ahoy, Mr Cod and Chung Wah. The Chancellor is trying to make sense of the tax system and put everything on a level playing field but, instead of reporting the facts, the media creates Pastygate and depicts George Osborne and David Cameron as out of touch with the working man. Unfair.
Dinnergate. Name a political party or politician that wouldn’t offer some time to anyone who donated a quarter of a million quid. It makes sense and don’t think for a minute that Ed Milliband would have done differently.
Grannytaxgate. This is the one that is most likely to affect me. As I see it, being old should not be seen as a reason to contribute less to the country’s coffers. A low paid young couple starting out together on say £20,000 per year has far more to find than an elderly couple with the same income. The pensioners are already likely to have their furniture and most of life’s necessities whereas the young have to save for those things. Why should the old have bigger allowances? They are only going to pay tax if their income exceeds them. They already have winter fuel payments, help with TV licences and free bus travel; so, if we are all in it together, we should all accept the fairness of one allowance for all. But how did the media cover the change in allowances? They branded Osborne as uncaring and depicted old people as shivering, freezing cold paupers eating bread and dripping. Totally unfair.
50ptaxgate. 50% tax! That’s a hell of a lot. Add on 10% National Insurance and that’s sixty pence in every pound going to support the nation. In the next tax year, somebody on £20,000 would pay about £4,050 in tax and NHI. However, someone earning £200,000 will pay about £85,500. A tenfold increase in pay produces a twenty-one fold hike in contributions to the exchequer. I’m all in favour of the rich paying a fair share but is this fair? Remember that many high earners will not only have spent years studying and bringing in no income and they may well be working eighty hours a week or more but they will also be less likely to use the NHS. About 18% of contributions go towards the NHS. That means that £200,000 earners are paying £15,000 plus towards a service they may not even use. I’m not crying for the wealthy; I’m just saying that the 50% rate was excessive.
Finally there’s Jerrycangate. I’m not so sure about this one. Yes it caused some stupidity at the pumps and yes there was a burns tragedy. It was probably wrong for the Government to create panic buying but it did bring the situation to everyone’s attention and if I didn’t have enough fuel to help mourners get to Flo’s funeral on Thursday because an unexpected strike broke out I would be very upset.
Oh well that’s the end of my political blog. If anybody’s still there, it will be back to cinema and the like next time.