Friendly Route to Taxation; Mr Hague's Engaging Twist on More for Less Taxation Could Well Prove a Vote Catcher, Says Chief Feature Writer Jason Beattie

By Beattie, Jason | The Birmingham Post (England), March 15, 2000 | Go to article overview

Friendly Route to Taxation; Mr Hague's Engaging Twist on More for Less Taxation Could Well Prove a Vote Catcher, Says Chief Feature Writer Jason Beattie


Beattie, Jason, The Birmingham Post (England)


The words 'tax cuts' and 'morality' are an unlikely combination. It is like putting 'IT' and 'help desk' together or placing 'friendly' alongside 'fire.'

Taxes, it has has always been presumed, are morally justified and, by using the same logic, tax cuts are an unwanted evil.

No one has dared, or bothered, to refute the argument that taxation exists to pay for the services which are of benefit to our society (the police, education, waste disposal etc) and to redistribute wealth.

This reasoning has become so prevalent in our political thinking that whenever anything goes wrong such as a crisis in the health service, a rise in crime or a need for more prison cells, the Pavlovian reaction is to bark 'why don't they increase taxes to pay for it?'

This cry has become louder since we learned Chancellor Gordon Brown has an alleged war chest of some pounds 12 billion which could be spent on meeting some of Labour's over-ambitious manifesto commitments, such as cutting waiting lists.

Regardless of how generous Mr Brown decides to be the central thesis remains the same: taxation is, if not a pleasant thing, ethically responsible.

Indeed, there are some hair-shirt wearing, well-meaning, socially-responsible and fiscally-demented people out there who would quite willingly pay more taxes if it meant the NHS were improved and their child could learn to read by the time he or she were 21.

No one had ever suggested taxation might be a bad thing. That would be living in an Alice in Wonderland world where help desks actually help and firing on your own troops really is friendly.

Then came Mr William Hague, the Humpty Dumpty of the Tory Party, who has decided cutting taxes is not only right, it is a moral duty.

In a speech last night to the Politeia think-tank the Conservative leader said the punitive levels of taxation only served to encourage the 'black' economy and to lead otherwise law-abiding citizens to break the law by tax avoidance.

'We must show how this Government's stealth taxes are the enemy, not the friend, of social provision and decent public services.

'We must show how this Government's stealth taxes are the enemy, not the friend, of a strong community and a fair society.

'And we must show that our Conservative low tax agenda is not just the basis of a dynamic economy but also the foundation of a moral, compassionate, free and just society,' he said.

Pro-tax ideologues must have been left open mouthed with stupefaction after hearing these words.

How, they were wondering, do you square the need to provide for the country's core services (normally seen as the foundation of a compassionate and just society) with a policy of low taxation?

It has been assumed the NHS needs taxation just as a horse needs a carriage and love needs marriage: you can't have one without the other.

Not so, say the Conservatives. Nigel Hastilow, their prospective parliamentary candidate for Edgbaston, is happy to explain:

'It is morally just to cut taxes because it gives people their freedom and freedom is one of most important things the Conservative Party stands for. The state should interfere as little as possible in people's lives.

'It's perfectly clear from the Tories in the 1980s that cutting taxes increases revenue to the state and also increases the entrepreneurial spirit and therefore, leads to the creation of wealth and the more wealth which is created the better off everyone is,' he said.

Hastilow believes it is possible to cut taxes and still pay for health and education 'if you have economic growth'.

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