How low can they go

I attended a debate last night on poverty and the spending review held by the Orwell Prize people. I had a lovely time. A highlight of the night was Louise (HarpyMarx) asking the panel how anyone could qualify use of the word “fair” or “fairness” when the spending review was anything but that.

In attempt to deflect the question put to him by Louise, panellist and Chief Economist at Reform, Patrick Nolan instead tried to put her on the spot with questions, answers to which he had in his hand. The point made by Louise was absolutely vital, but obviously not something Nolan had an adequate answer for, so he took to finger pointing.

Instead of leaving it there, Nolan has written an article on the Standpoint website. In it he describes his position again. But also, brings up Louise’s question, to try for the final time to point his finger. In the article he says:

I took the chance to ask an audience member whether she had seen the HMRC statistics on the tax gap (tax avoidance). She said yes. I then asked her to clarify which taxes were most prone to avoidance and who are the people who are most cheating the system. She couldn’t. I had the statistics with me and pointed out that the largest gap in the tax base relates to the VAT, that excise taxes like tobacco and alcohol are highly prone to avoidance (people importing these goods themselves) and that many small businesses engage in income-splitting to make multiple use of the personal income tax allowances.

I have left a strong message on the comments thread, which I also want to print here, defending my friend and co-bloggers comments.

I attended the debate last night, and on your point regarding your exchange with an audience member, she asked a question to the panel on why the word “fairness” has been used to describe the spending review when civil servants, the poor and the disabled are being hit disproportionately to those with the broadest shoulders – which relates to the point that families will be hit twice as hard as the banks.

Her question to you, if anything, was that as a public sector trade unionist herself, whether you could explain to her why civil servants were being punished more than the top deciles – including the top 1% of super-rich who have come off almost undamaged.

The honest answer – and even Osborne himself recognises this, albeit without too much worry – is that the assumption of the working class is that they remain static while government is taking advantage of them, while “capital flight” might hold government stranded to do anything. It’s a false dichotomy, but it’s the honest answer; the honest answer is certainly not that it’s fair – which is the one being pushed by yourself last night.

Instead of answering the question put to you, instead you asked of the audience member a question you had previously sought the answer for, in attempt to deflect responsibility as a speaker to answer, and not ask, questions, but also to try and make the participant look stupid.

After your ticking off by the moderator, and your childish refusal to talk any further, saying, and I quote “what’s the point”, it was you, and not the audience member, who came out looking rather stupid. This is ultimately confirmed in your attempt to point fun at last night’s participant in this article. But your readers should know that your cowardice was proven in your inability to admit that Osborne’s measures are not fair, they demonstrate political blackmail at the myth that the rich cannot be punished because they will all leave, making it incumbent upon the government to overburden an innocent public sector workforce/those at the lower end of the economic scale.


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