Cameron faced his backbenchers yesterday on the EU, and lost.
But the EU was not the whole reason for this. Polly Toynbee had what was, without doubt, the best line on this issue:
But the "in or out" debate was never just a dry calculation of national interest. The two sides stand for profoundly different visions of the good society. A few Labour mavericks straddle the divide, but most anti-Europeans are from the far right for good reason. To them EU red tape, health and safety, human rights and labour regulations throttle British business.
Their vision is of a Britain thriving by undercutting basic protection of the workforce – working hours, maternity rights, holidays, sickness, security at work, equal treatment of agency workers. Read the sceptics' outpourings to see their vision of our island as a low-tax, maybe flat-tax haven for the super-rich, free to treat employees as "flexibly" as they like. This is a fine distraction from the real cause of our worsening economic crisis – this government's extreme austerity choking demand.
She's right. Those voting against Cameron weren't just anti-EU. They're anti society as we know it in the UK and want to throw it all over in favour of radical transformation that will hasten the flow of funds from the poor to the rich; something flat taxes are designed to do.
If in doubt look to their inspiration across the pond: Rick Perry is proposing a flat tax. There is only one explanation - and that is that these taxes push governments to the very margins of existence - which is exactly what their proponents want. If in doubt look at the detailed analysis of the proposal by my friends Citizens for Tax Justice in the USA. They say Perry's plan would give:
- Enormous tax cuts for the richest five percent of taxpayers and of $209,562 for the richest one percent in 2010.
- Tax hikes for all other income groups. The bottom 95 percent of taxpayers would pay an average of $2,887 more in federal taxes in 2010.
That's what the Tories oppising Cameron really want.
There's going to be a role for those in favour of tax justice for a long time to come.