Who are the Taxpayer’s Alliance?

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The Guardian carried an article under this title this morning. The question is a good one. Especially as they are specifically contrasted with the Tax Justice Network, to whom I am an adviser.

The answer is raised in a media context: how do they get so much publicity. They claim the answer is:

“We are always available 24 hours a day,” says [chief executive] Elliott. “We put the work in so we get good coverage.”

Actually, I don’t buy that. Lot’s of people are available 24 hours a day and don’t get as much coverage. TJN, for start, even though we (unlike the TPA) actually try to provide considered analysis and real research on stories.

The reason why the TPA get coverage is much easier to explain. Take chairman Andrew Allum’s profile for a start. As he says:

He left the [Conservative] party in 2003, having lost faith that it represented his brand of free market, individualist and compassionate politics.

Put it another way: he moved further Right than the right wing of the Tories. He moved out of the political mainstream and into the Neo-Con, libertarian hinterlands. He gave up analysis at that time. He took up government bashing (by which I mean, all government, not just the government of the moment) and that covered his anti-tax agenda (I mean all tax, not particular tax).

And we have a media that supports this view; laps it up and feeds it as objective comment to the British public. Just look at the Sunday Times budget supplement yesterday, which featured on ‘stealth taxes’ and actually quoted a women claiming she was questioning the value of her £16,000 a year job because she was going to suffer a £27 tax increase this coming year.

This is crass reporting. The story is complete rubbish. She simply won’t notice the difference. Her family as a whole will be £88 a year worse off (but I note increases in child allowance weren’t taken into account, so that probably overstates the case) but the media wanted to find an anti-tax story. The Tax Payer’s Alliance pedals them this sort of nonsensical yarn knowing that no-one will ever act on what they say. Which is precisely why the Tories said yesterday that there were no grounds for cutting taxes.

Unlike the TPA, the TJN works in the real world. We talk to real politicians, from the Conservatives, Lib Dems and across the Labour perspective. We do not deal outside the limits of credibility. But facing real issues makes it so much harder to get coverage.

But I’ll trade fewer press reports for credibility any day, and there is no one of any credibility in government or opposition in our parliament who takes the TPA seriously. Thankfully.