Kids are getting the tax issue, how about adults?
Modern kids seemingly have an innate understanding that taxation is theft. How awesome, and UKIP, is that?
A few years ago I spent some time working as a trainee teacher in a South London school. By far and away the best thing about the experience was the kids themselves; though not always polite, they were never dull. One day, to my delight, I learned that kids use the word ‘tax’ as slang for ‘steal’. So Johnny might be heard to remonstrate: “But Miss I can’t do my work, Billy’s taxed my pen!”
So, modern kids seemingly have an innate understanding that taxation is theft. How awesome is that? It certainly makes me fear a little less for the fate of the human race.
Of course, this idea isn’t really innate – 20th Century history taught us nothing if not that – so the kids must have picked it up from somewhere. Many of their parents were self-employed tradesmen, so perhaps they’d gotten early tutoring in the advantages of ‘cash in hand’ work, or perhaps there were grumblings around the home when the tax return had to be filed.
Either way, it’s indicative of the way things are going. People simply aren’t interested in paternalistic systems of governance anymore, if indeed they ever were. They don’t want to line up meekly to hand over taxes to the government in order to get a meagre portion back again in times of need, and they are aware now that there is an alternative.
Partly this is down to poor experience. There have been too many stories of overspend: lavish offices, council junkets, duck houses, six figure payoffs; too many stories of under-delivery: lost records and spying activity, NHS deaths, overcrowded families stuck in rotting houses.
Partly this has a basis in Thatcherism. The working and lower middle classes got a taste of the good life back in the 80s, when any barrow boy could make 'loadsamoney' if he put the hours in, and was unwilling to go back to knowing their place.
Partly it’s down to the internet, and the increasing trend towards individualism that it has ushered along – the ability of firms to cater to increasingly niche markets has meant that almost anyone can get what they want, in the colour they want, with their picture on it if they want, delivered to their door by 9am the next morning.
That doesn’t sit well with waiting in line for the more important things in life like health and education. It also means that anyone who can put a website together can start a business.
The only people who don’t appear to have picked up on this trend are our elected representatives (with the notable exception, amongst one or two others, of Douglas Carswell who has written an excellent book on this very subject: The End of Politics and the Birth of iDemocracy).
The Labour party has at least gotten as far as ditching the unions, those bastions of communism. Right wingers are often accused of harking back to the 1950s, nostalgic for long shadows on cricket grounds and maids cycling to church; these guys clearly would give anything to have been at the Winter Palace in October 1917, storming the gates alongside Comrade Lenin.
But what has Labour plumped for instead? One Nation politics, a paternalistic creed first championed by Tory PM Disraeli all the way back in 1845. Hardly the cutting edge of political thought.
If Labour leader Ed Miliband thinks this is going to win him votes, he’s not studied the more recent history of the Conservative Party closely enough. It is well understood within Conservative circles, if nowhere else, that the party has now long been an unhappy coalition of two factions: the electorally successful Thatcherites, and the electorally unsuccessful One Nation Tories (Cameron once name checked Disraeli as his favourite PM; witness his failure to clinch a victory at the last election).
This coalition has so far survived because no other party offered a home for either of these groups, and because the British electoral system favours large parties, which in turn rewards tribalism. But that doesn’t make the One Nation creed any more popular electorally, and anyway, all that is changing.
In a world in which hierarchical structure was taken for granted, it used to make sense to join a party according to your social situation. Consequently, each party could rely on a core vote when it came to election time; people who could be relied upon to put a tick in the appropriate box election after election for no other reason than tribalism.
Now that we’re moving into a more horizontal world – a world in which institutions and structures no longer command the same respect they once did – people are becoming more discerning in their vote. And increasing numbers of aspirational and frustrated people are yearning for small state solutions to unleash the wealth creating potential of the British people.
It is no coincidence, therefore, that after 20 years of slow progression, UKIP has suddenly taken flight. UKIP is now the only party in British politics currently campaigning for aspirational causes such as the return of grammar schools and affordable energy solutions, supply side economics (lower taxes, less regulation), and social conservatism.
Indeed, it is the only party unashamed to be socially conservative, which brings it in line with the majority of the British people who are far more conservative than their political masters. The metropolitan elite has fallen into the trap of thinking that social conservatism leaves no room for a sense of fair play; UKIP has deftly sidestepped that trap. It has more belief in the people of Britain than the other parties do.
A choice between a paternalistic One Nation Tory Party and a paternalistic One Nation Labour Party isn’t really a choice at all. UKIP offers meaningful choice, so it’s little wonder that so many frustrated voters are flocking to the town hall meetings they hold, and then to vote for them at the ballot box.
Although UKIP are taking votes from across the political spectrum, the rise of the party does present a specific problem for the Conservative party, namely: it has split the conservative movement right down the Thatcherite / One Nation divide. No longer are the Thatcherites within the party bound to be shackled to their One Nation counterparts; one by one they are moving to a party that truly represents their views.
The split affects not just the Party, but the conservative movement at large. I recently stepped down from a role on The Bow Group’s council. My presence there as a UKIP member was making some One Nation Conservatives within their ranks very uncomfortable, whilst leading some in UKIP to question whether I’d truly turned my back on Cameron and his ilk.
From my perspective, however, it was natural to me to join an organisation that was at the heart of policy making in Thatcher’s time. I found a great deal of shared interest with Bow Group members who, like me, hailed from the Thatcherite wing of the party.
When asked why I was a member, I would respond that the Bow Group stood for conservatism with a small ‘c’, rather than tribal ‘Conservatism’. However, as a result I was vociferous within Bow Group meetings regarding what I saw as a pressing need to define small ‘c’ conservatism.
My definition would be: a belief in equality of opportunity, not equality of outcomes. A belief in Austrian school supply side economics. A belief that the nanny state should be rolled back and kept at bay. By my reckoning, then, the Conservative party no longer stands for conservatism (which is why I left it).
If use of the word ‘conservatism’ is causing confusion (and ‘Thatcherism’ is still electoral suicide), what other term might we use to denote the ideas outlined above? Certainly nothing existent. UKIP’s use of the term ‘libertarian’ has also caused confusion and conflict. Perhaps it is time to coin a new label, such as ‘individualism’ or the ‘independents’.
In any event, on current trends, the shape of things to come in the near future is a Conservative Party finally split – the Thatcherite ‘independents’ hewn away from the One Nation modernisers.
Let us not forget that the last time the Conservative Party split – over the corn laws – it was the old party that died away. They do say history repeats itself.
Donna Edmunds is a UKIP councillor. Follow her on @DonnaInSussex
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