Last week saw the announcement of the forthcoming Rally Against Debt (which should be called the Rally For Cuts). The event to be held on 14 May was announced in the wake of the massive TUC-organised rally in Hyde Park, which various Tory commentators like Dan Hannan and Hon Tobes used their blogs to attack it for having either no credible alternative or being responsible for a “tsunami of violence”. The Rally, it seems, is supposed to be a peaceful response to the anti-cuts protests. It is more than that, it is an attempt by certain right wing groups to claim the moral high ground. It will be portrayed by its defenders as a grassroots protest but it is anything but.
Here’s their Facebook page.
They appear to have taken their idea from the US , who had this Facebook page.
It shouldn’t surprise any of us to learn that Hannan has been throwing his weight behind the Rally. He says,
Imagine that you were reviewing all your household expenditure: your utility bills, your mortgage, your car, your mobile phone, your annual holiday. What would be the single biggest item? If you are in work, there is no doubt: it would be your consolidated tax bill. According to the ONS, the average household pays 33.5 per cent of its income to the state, not including the taxes which businesses are obliged to pass on to their customers and employees. The average figure, of course, takes account of pensioners, students, benefits claimants and the nearly 40 per cent of the population who pay no income tax. In a working household, the figure would be far higher.
The problem with this simplistic ‘analysis’ is that it is really a reductive narrative. Household finances cannot be compared with the nation’s finances. The phrase “comparing apples with oranges” springs to mind. Further down the blog, we find the first clue.
Few of us realise it, of course, because the costs are disguised and distributed. Income tax and national insurance are confiscated at source. VAT is built into the advertised price of what we buy. So, in effect, are duties on alcohol, petrol, tobacco and air travel. One of the reasons that council tax arouses so much controversy is that, for many people, it is the only time they feel they are making a direct payment to the state. For a fuller sense of quite how much most of us pay, watch this superb clip from the TaxPayers’ Alliance.
He is disingenuous when he talks about Council Tax. The real reason why people hate the tax has little to do with it feeling like “a direct payment to the state” and has more to do with its regressive nature; it is not a fair tax that takes into consideration a person’s ability to pay. Did you notice how he mentions the Taxpayers Alliance (TPA) here? I watched the clip and it tries to rationalize taxation with how you spend your time. Have a look at the photo on the blog. We’ll return to that in a moment.
It appears that there is considerable input from both the Tory front group, TPA and The Freedom Association (TFA). Last year, Hannan wrote this blog, in which he appeals for a “British Tea Party”. If you’ve ever seen him attack the NHS on Fox News or read The Plan, you will realize that Hannan wants to transform Britain into an American ‘Mini Me’ complete with elected police commissioners and presumably, elected dustmen. After doing a little Googling, I found this page on TFA’s website. Hannan, who is a leading member of TFA can be seen addressing a group of people. Remember that picture on his blog? That’s a picture for TFA’s “Taxed Enough Already” campaign. Here’s a snippet from the page,
The Tea Party Movement in the UK had a massively successful launch on Saturday 27 February 2010 with a talk by Daniel Hannan MEP at the Best Western Brighton Hotel. Over 300 people packed in to hear a brilliant speech by Daniel. We apologise to more than fifty others who had to be turned away for lack of space.
The Libertarian Party UK is also lending its support to the Rally. On its blog, it doesn’t say much but there’s that picture from the US Rally Against Debt page again. The Liberal View website has the same picture and says,
Protest marches are rarely a very effective way to change public opinion. Most look self-serving, some get hi-jacked by violent minorities. They act more as rallying points for the already convinced rather than ‘could be persuaded’.With tongue firmly in cheek to make a serious point then, opponents of ever larger government are organising a “civilised and well mannered” rally against “pointless government initiatives” on 14th May 2011.
It is unlikely the rally will attract the quarter million claimed by the TUC. Cuts make a small number of people very angry, debt reduction benefits everyone largely invisibly by reducing crowding out and other barriers to growth. The balance of emotion is in the other camp.
It should though attract a good crowd and is a thoroughly recommended day-out for fans of liberty and a smaller state. Liberal Vision will be there.
This is a distortion. I wonder what sort of incomes those thinking of joining this rally draw down? I’m willing to bet that none of them will be on £25,000 or less per annum.
So I had to dig some more and I discovered that someone called Harry Aldridge is one of the movers behind it. Here’s his Facebook page. His “inspirations” include FA Hayek and Nigel Farage. So it comes as no surprise to learn that Harry is a member of UKIP and was also the party’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Horsham. Aldridge is also a regular contributor to a site called “Independence Home”. Here is a page of his archived writings.
I found this clip of young Harry (he’s 23 or 24) on YouTube.
My name is Harry Aldridge, I’m 23 years old, and I run a telecommunications company. I live in Slinfold and have lived in the Horsham area all my life.Politically I describe myself as a classical liberal and believe in government of the people, by the people, for the people. In the UK government is too big, too costly, too unaccountable, to remote, and too intrusive into the lives of its citizens. We need to decentralise power, first and foremost bringing power back from the European Union and then disperse it among communities and individuals.
Notice how he describes himself as a “classical liberal”. This is just a way of putting some distance between himself and neoliberalism – which is, for all intents and purposes, dishonest. Hayek was also a classical liberal whose vision became known as neoliberalism, which was itself a late 20th century variant of classical liberalism. The sudden revival of interest in classical liberalism is entirely a romantic one. The people who tell us that they are socio-economically inclined towards classical liberalism have a nostalgic view of the past that allows them to ignore the fact that, as an economic model, it was a failure. Exponents of free trade claimed that it would end wars. The opposite has happened. Classical liberalism also led to the colonization of foreign lands and subjugation of those peoples. It also legitimated Social Darwinism, which has been revived in the right’s current thinking towards such things as the welfare state, poverty, housing, education and other social issues.
So who is behind this rally? Well, it is a coalition of TFA, TPA, UKIP and some Tories. Whether or not it will attract huge numbers remains to be seen. I don’t think numbers will reach anything more than a few thousand. However, this new tendency to graft features of American political culture onto Britain is the beginning of a worrying trend. But it also shows us something else: there is an intellectual and philosophical vacuum at the heart of right-wing thinking.
Importing ideas from the US right will not fill that void.
UPDATE: 4/4/11 @ 1525
There appears to be something wrong with Harry Aldridge’s page. Too many biscuit crumbs in the UKIP server maybe?
UPDATE: 6/4/11 @2220
Pssssssst! They’ve changed the profile picture on their Facebook page. Don’t tell anyone!
The very right-wing (if I say “far right” they’ll only threaten me with a law suit. So much for free speech. Eh?) ‘youth’ group Conservative Future (Yorkshire and Humber chapter) is organizing a coach to go down to London. Here’s their Facebook page. Nowhere Towers thinks their name should be “Conservative – What Future”?
UPDATE 11/5/11 @1149
It seems the main instigator of the RAD is UKIP’s Annabelle Fuller, who was once a long-term mistress of leader, Nigel Farage. Fuller is also working as Farage’s assistant in Brussels. Fuller had left UKIP in 2008 after being she claims that she received “menacing phone calls” accusing her of being a “whore”. There’s an interesting thread about Fuller and her resignation from UKIP and her subsequent reinstatement on the Democracy Forum here.
I wonder if Farage will be joining his chums on Saturday?
If this is a rally against debt and credit is a form of debt, is this also a rally against credit?