Right wingers launch “British Tea Party”


12:00 pm - February 25th 2010

by Sunder Katwala    


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The Tory right is getting a British Tea Party movement off the ground this Saturday, aiming to build an anti-tax movement.

Its being organised by the Freedom Association, starring right wing Tory MEP Daniel Hannan.

As we will no doubt hear again and again, its a good moment for an anti-tax revolt.

After all, the 2010 British Social Attitudes survey shows public support for tax cuts and spending cuts has doubled since 1997, from 4% to 8%.

Public support for increasing taxation and public spending is now at its lowest level since the early 1980s. 39% support this, down from 62% in 1997. Only 8% support cuts.

The most popular view, held by 50%, is that spending and taxation levels should stay as they are.

It will be a long hard road to Libertopia, even if those who gather on Saturday may understimate that, but perhaps the Tory revolutionaries do realise that their real battle will be with their own leadership.

And perhaps the launch of the tea party should also prompt fiscal conservatives on the right to take on the fiscally ludicrous “oppose all tax rises” fundamentalism of the Taxpayers’ Alliance and their allies.

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About the author
Sunder Katwala is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. He is the director of British Future, a think-tank addressing identity and integration, migration and opportunity. He was formerly secretary-general of the Fabian Society.
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Reader comments


1. Roberto Blanco

Excellent news, this will tear the Tory Party apart! Good stuff, DanHan!

“British Tea Party” might be the most nonsensical phrase I’ve ever heard.

3. Col. Richard Hindrance (Mrs), VC, DSO & Bar Six, KitKat

Chimps Tea Party would be a more accurate description of this band of glibertarian chancers.

It will soon become obvious to all that the only way to get the levels of growth we need will be to slash taxes. It’s not such an exclusively right-wing position: Obama has cuts taxes for 94% of working families.

“After all, the 2010 British Social Attitudes survey shows public support for tax cuts and spending cuts has doubled since 1997, from 4% to 8%.”

If something doubles over 13 years, then it soon becomes very large. 😉

Judging by his Mais lecture yesterday, George Osborne isn’t being exactly tardy or reticient about promising steep spending cuts. In today’s press:

“UK must cut fiscal deficit now, warns George Osborne”
http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/feb/25/osborne-uk-must-cut-fiscal-deficit

7. Roberto Blanco

If something doubles over 13 years, then it soon becomes very large

If it takes a woman 5 years to get married to a man, then in 10 years time she should be married to two men, in 20 years time to four men, and so on!

The vast majority want the government’s tax take to be reduced from under its current above 50% of the economy. The median position is just under 20%.

I suspect that, if asked, most people would want the amount of national wealth destroyed by government regulation to also be well under the current 50%.

Will there be cakes, then? Fruit ones?

“The vast majority want the government’s tax take to be reduced from under its current above 50% of the economy.”

Presumably, that means recouping the taxpayers’ money sunk into ailing banks. If so, why then is George Osborne proposing to sell off shares in those banks at a discount?

On public spending, it’s always as well to do a fact check in the IFS Survey of Public Spending in the UK (September 2009):
http://www.ifs.org.uk/bns/bn43.pdf

“In the fiscal year 2008–09 the UK government spent £618.6 billion, or 43.2 per cent of the UK’s national income.”

The IFS Survey of the UK Tax System is here:
http://www.ifs.org.uk/bns/bn09.pdf

“Total UK government receipts are forecast to be £545.5 billion in 2008–09, or 37.3% of UK GDP.”

I was agreeing with you all the way until this…

“And perhaps the launch of the tea party should also prompt fiscal conservatives on the right to take on the fiscally ludicrous “oppose all tax rises” fundamentalism of the Taxpayers’ Alliance and their allies.”

There only needs to be two taxes; one imposed by central government and one by local government. Those two taxes should be a fixed (each local rate is independent of any other regional rates) percentage rate on all things but the essentials (food (non-restaurant), water, energy, etc).

More Dan Hannan please! It would be glorious to see the Tories tear themselves apart over this.

13. Groundhogs of the World Unite!

The other plus side of course is that your comments boxes will be devoid of the usual chorus of arseholes for at least the duration of the event!

Roberto @ 7,

“If it takes a woman 5 years to get married to a man, then in 10 years time she should be married to two men, in 20 years time to four men, and so on!”

If a woman takes 5 years to get married to 1 man, how do you what the multiplier that applies here is? Whereas 4 doubles to 8, so there is at least a pattern…

Sunny @ 12,

“More Dan Hannan please! It would be glorious to see the Tories tear themselves apart over this.”

I doubt they will though. Mr Cameron has adopted surprisingly large parts of Mr Hannan’s agenda (indeed, the only major bit not yet touched on would be withdrawal from Europe), so hoping for this platform to be pushed more often is more likely to bring it more influence. It is only the left that think Messrs Cameron and Hannan are at loggerheads; they may have differences but both seem to believe that in general they are pulling in the same direction. It is possible to overstate how centralised Mr Cameron’s position is…

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

And with regards to Groundhogs of the World Unite! @ 13: if only sir, if only…

16. Groundhogs of the World Unite!

@ Daniel Hoffmann-Gill

True, no doubt they’ll be doing live blog commenting from the event using their blackburries!

Sunder, if majorities decide what groups should campaign about, will you promise now that the Fabians will campaign for a restoration of the death penalty and closing British borders?

The US Tea Party movement have been able to tap into various demographics who were already susceptible to populism and coalesce them into a ‘ movement ‘. It will not last as they will be split with factionalism with the National Rifle Association probably shooting the rest of them.The problem for a British Tea Party movement is the populist ground and agenda has already been taken by the BNP and UKIP. Sure people will say they do not want to pay anymore tax. Although most don’t mind other people paying more. The more swivel-eyed will be against any form of taxation and make convoluted arguments why it is a moral issue rather than selfishness. However. it is likely that a British form of the TPM will just be preaching to the converted as others cover the populism that would widen their appeal.

19. Sunder Katwala

Edward@17

The Fabianistia left, like the right, campaigns on issues and causes that are both popular (universal public services, public spending) and unpopular (inheritance tax, prisoners rights, asylum). I do not favour simple push-button direct democracy or government by referendum.

Rather my point was simply that the Tea Party type advocacy tends to be based on an “everybody agrees with us” angry populism, against “the system” refusing to listen to “the people” … the lunatic conspiracy theory on the opening night of the US Tea Party convention that Obama won only because of the lack of a literacy test for non-English speaking immigrants captures the inchaote rage based on a refusal to believe that some other people don’t agree with them.

And I was simply pointing out that more tax and more spend appears to (still) be more popular than less tax and less spend by about 5-1. It doesn’t prove who is right. It might give some Tea Party types pause for thought, and otherwise give the rest of us some sense of why we don’t *always* have to listen to them about everything.

Sunder,

Susinct (I’m giving up trying to spell this correctly, sorry) answer, but do not all movements tend to work on the same populist basis at times, and have members shout about stupid things as a result? In effect what you are saying is that the Tea Party is just another political movement: true, but maybe not the message that you want to get across?

Bob B you appear to be unaware that we are also intending to borrow £175 billion which has to be repaid. Also that spending & borrowing estimates tend to be less than actuality.

Perhaps a deeper fact check would have educated you.

22. vegetable burger

Is Chris Mounsey going?

@ Sunder

I do not favour simple push-button direct democracy or government by referendum.

I have no great faith in democracy producing good outcomes if people are asked to decide directly on how we should live but careful analysis of the above common refrain from those close to the ruling elite always seems to me to have the whiff of hypocrisy.

What is really being said is that you will accept the democratic will except where it doesn’t suit you (where you’re not getting the result you want). Like you, I am not in favour of the death penalty but if I were, who should I vote for to bring it back?

If there is any subject suitable for a referendum it is whether the state should have the authority to take the lives of its citizens. I wouldn’t ask our population that question either but then I don’t purport to be pro democracy.

23
That’s representative democracy for you, the agenda isn’t part of democracy and we don’t vote for policies (unless, unusually, it is via a referendum)’ Representative democracy is the election of the dictatorship, and it works very well for the economic elite.

25. Sunder Katwala

The objection to push button democracy is not “it may do things I don’t like”.

Wherever you are on the political spectrum, surely the biggest problem is that making large numbers of decisions by referendum leads to incompatible choices through a lack of aggregation, especially if they are allowed to do anything with budgetary implications. That is part of the current mess in California, and even California is someway short of a push button utopia
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2009/sep/16/california-golden-dream-turned-sour

by the way, I suspect the classic death penalty example is probably out of date now.

It is not now polled very regularly, but whereas it used to poll 70-80% support across the 60s, 70s and 80s (and still 75% in 1994 when the Commons last voted on it), opinion appears to have fallen since. Support was 56% and 62% in two YouGov 2003 polls (the latter immediately after Soham), and 49% in 2006. Some polls have been higher, though Channel 4pushed what looked to me like some leading questions in the most recent poll around their Gary Glitter execution programme, getting 70% favouring it for at least one of the 12 listed crimes they polled
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1506834/Less-than-50pc-back-death-penalty.html

I suspect this reflects some greater social liberalism in general, a sense that it is a thing of the past, and perhaps somewhat the specific problem of miscarriages of justice having a higher profile since the 1990s.

In the event that there were citizens’ initiatives for 1m signatures in the UK, I don’t know whether or not campaigners would get the death penalty on the ballot. Apart from possibly the Sun newspaper, there seem very few active attempts to campaign or mobilise opinion for the death penalty.

If there was a referendum, given a four week public campaign, and broadcast media scrutiny of the issue, I suspect that the proposition would lose. Perhaps it would be possible to carry a popular vote for something like the ‘death penalty for child murderers’ but, given that some of the best known miscarriages of justice were for significant terrorist crimes, I think proponents have struggled a great deal since the 1990s with what is necessary to make the case: to acknowledge that (rare) miscarriages of justice where somebody innocent is executed will happen, but to argue that these are a price worth paying for other benefits (which are very hard to demonstrate).

That it would be incompatible with the ECHR and breaks a condition of EU membership might either increase populist rage for it among some, but may lead others to see that it is unlikely to happen.

I suspect the death penalty would draw less support than previously but think you are clutching at straws to say under 50% – C4’s 70% is still pretty overwhelming by most standards. In any case if you really believe that surely that is an argument in favour of a referendum. It would lance the boil.

In general I would support referenda on motions which increase liberty & limit the power of the state. I might accept ones which extend power if they needed a 2/3rds majority (death penalty would be one). The important thing ios to have a constitutionally established way of calling them rather than the present system where politicians have them on an ad hoc basis to fix their own problems & make manifesto promises to have them that are cynical lies they have not the slightest intention of keeping.

The recent behaviour over the EU referendum manifesto & “cast iron” promises only proves that there are no circumstances whatsoever under which any promise made by any member of the corrupt Labour, LibDUm & Tory parties can be treated as worth the paper it is written on

Wherever you are on the political spectrum, surely the biggest problem is that making large numbers of decisions by referendum leads to incompatible choices through a lack of aggregation

I think that technology gives us scope to make many more decisions in a flexibly democratic way, not all by way of national referendum of course. it is vitally important how the electorate is defined and how votes are triggered but it is possible and the recent vote on congestion charging in Manchester was a good example.

It just seems bizarre to me that people can seriously claim to wrap yourself in the flag of democracy when it appears they cannot trust the electorate to come to good decisions on important issues.

After all, millions vote every week for their favourite lap dancer or whatever.

28. Mike Killingworth

[27] Why wouldn’t I vote for taxes (and government borrowing) to be abolished altogether and also for public spending to be increased in my area (but cut in yours, of course)?

Who would decide which ideas were contradictory? Would you support, for example, a vote by Welsh people for all their services to be funded by the English? Why would it be rational for any Welsh voter to turn such a proposition down?

Voting for one person as opposed to others (whether an MP or a lapdancer) necessarily produces a coherent and consistent result. Voting on propositions doesn’t.

Pagar @ 27

After all, millions vote every week for their favourite lap dancer or whatever.

Of course ‘favourite’ is not the same as best.

I really dislike the idea of these referenda proposals for several reasons.

First of all, most of the proposals will be newspaper driven. The big, opinionated proprietors will whip up an agenda and gather a million (or whatever the trigger point is) names. The idea that you can have a month’s equal campaign on anything in this Country is simply laughable. Why bother giving two equal pots of money to both sides of the asylum seeker debate when the ‘Daily Hate’ has been skewing the debate for the last twenty years. How can that be addressed with a few one line posters? All you would be doing is replacing one small powerful cadre, with a smaller, more powerful and unaccountable one.

Second,. Are the big issues of the day really solvable with a glib question on a ballot paper? Take the question ‘Should people get benefits if they have not worked for six months?

I could get a million people to sign that petition no problem and no doubt the Tory rags could get a critical mass to swing behind and perhaps get a two thirds majority (or whatever) and force it to be implemented. Then what? Who clears up the pieces? Who fixes all the problems that will bring? Does the Government then find money to create 6 million jobs? What does the Government do to make this one line become reality?

What if the whole system collapses? What if we have millions of people evicted from homes and onto the streets? What if there are riots? Who fixes it and perhaps who is accountable? All the people who voted for it, but is that the case?

Lastly, is the idea that this is the solution to ‘big government’. We will be making Government bigger and more intrusive. We will be voting on every aspect of people lives and every problem. We will be voting on how many times the roads get gritted, right up mobiles on trains.

This is a Country of moaning, sniping, petty minded, little people. The Swiss have managed to ‘ban’ a style of architecture; we will make them look like mere half hearted meddlers.

@ Mike & Jim

If you analyse what you have said, the conclusion is that democracy is not a very reliable way of arriving at sensible decisions because most people are too stupid or too selfish to achieve that objective.

I agree.

Readers are recommended to read Wikipedia on Kenneth Arrow’s “impossibility theorem”:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arrow's_impossibility_theorem

The poster who said that frequent recourse to plebiscites or referendums to establish preferences of the electorate would likely lead to inconsistent results is making sense.

This is but one of several reasons for preferring representative government. As Edmund Burke put it in his speech in 1774 to the electors of Bristol:

“Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion.”
http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Edmund_Burke

It’s technologically feasible nowadays to conduct instant plebiscites by internet voting. Indeed, the government was reported at one time to be toying with the idea of conducting Parliamentary elections through voting over the internet. Thankfully, none of this has progressed to the implementation stage.

I find it hard to believe that only 8% of people support tax & government cuts? I fully support re-arming the forces (navy quickly) but armies of bureaurocrats paid to do little makes me weep. Clearly this country is another faded socialist regime that has run out of quality people & the wealth they create. I don’t want to stick around & watch you lot sucking the last dregs from the corpse of our great country! It’s not about tax cuts it’s about the effects of years of “progressive” government. We’ve had enough & The Tories are singing the same Marxist song except with a different pianist. The tea part is a noble gesture but a waste of time in Britain.

32
A large bureacratic state transferring wealth from one person to another isn’t marxist and neither is it socialist. I think you’ll find that marxists are in favour of a genuine free-market. and the term socialism refers to an economic system that isn’t capitalism.

A large bureacratic state transferring wealth from one person to another isn’t marxist and neither is it socialist.

But Steve.

What we want to know is if its any good?

“I think you’ll find that marxists are in favour of a genuine free-market”

Have you met any?

34
I don’t think a large bureaucratic state is very good, as we haven’t tried marxism, I can’t really pre-judge it, but it’s got a very good chance of being better than current and previous economic systems.
35
Of course I’ve met marxists, and if you understood marxism, you would know why they favour a free-market.

So all the Marxists you have ever met are either (A) free market libertarians or (B) don’t really understand Marxism.

I grant I have met a number of the latter.

“I think you’ll find that marxists are in favour of a genuine free-market”
No. They’re in favour of increased power for workers, but not through market forces.
Marxists like a few, small select kinds of market but not most.
I think – as #37 explained – you’re actually talking about free-market libertarianism; an ideology whose moment seems to have arrived. It’s a million miles from Marxism, which is stuck in century-old class warfare, has failed everywhere it’s been implemented, and is of marginal relevance to today’s problems.

39. Mike Killingworth

38.

Free-market libertarianism; an ideology whose moment seems to have arrived

Upon what evidence? Among other things, Right Libertarianism* would require the tendency to monopoly inherent in capitalism to be abolished.

***

*I don’t think there is any other kind, but that’s just one man’s view.


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