The Telegraph and UK Uncut

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I note the Telegraph has been making some very strange comments at the weekend. Toby Young wrote:

Has there ever been a more ham-fisted protest movement than UK Uncut? The express purpose of this organisation is to force rich individuals and corporations to pay more tax. ….

What makes the movement so objectionable is that the main victims of this form of protest are the people trying to buy Christmas presents for their loved ones, not the corporations that own these shops. The organisers purport to be sympathetic to the victims of the cuts whom they describe as “the poorest and most vulnerable” – a category I must fall into because my family’s child benefit has been cut to zero – but the ordinary shoppers harmed by the UK Uncut protests will include precisely these people.

Even if this method of protest was successful and Vodafone and Top Shop ended up paying more tax, it wouldn’t be ordinary people that would benefit. On the contrary, the higher taxes would immediately be passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices. How, precisely, is that going to help “the poorest and most vulnerable”?

His suggestion:

If the organisers of the UK Uncut movement really want to help the most needy at this time of year, why don’t they patrol the streets of their home towns giving food and blankets to the homeless? That way, the rest of us can get on with our Christmas shopping without being screamed at by a bunch of red-faced students.

Ah, as ever, the elite’s response is to say:

Don’t ask why the poor are poor, just hand out food parcels

That’s the Tory view of charity for you – and it’s why Thatcher hated Oxfam so much.

But let’s go back to the main comment and note the claim that “the higher taxes would immediately be passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices”.

If that is true then Toby Young has hit on some much more serious issues. the first is that these companies can charge whatever price they like to considers and the consumers have no choice but pay it. Several things follow. First, demand is apparently unaffected by price. I bet that’s news to Vodafone. But just in case it isn’t then that means they’re a monopoly and it’s absolutely right that their prices are regulated (which they are – negating Young’s argument). Third, it says that if the company could increase price at will and doesn’t it’s not acting in its shareholder's interest now.

Alternatively it says that the protests are actually bang on target, this is the right thing to do, and that Toby Young has not a clue what he’s talking about.

I think both are true.