Friday, October 16, 2009
Tax Payers Alliance: Pressure group or Tory Front?
‘Since it was launched six years ago the alliance e has become arguably the most influential pressure group in the country..’ So wrote The Guardian 10th October 2009 in a major article on the new phenomenon, written in the wake of the Conservative Party conference in Manchester. Indeed, any organisation which presumes to speak in the name of all taxpayers needs to be looked at a little more closely.
“The idea of tearing down the walls of big government as Cameron did in his speech on Thursday is something we have been talking about for years," said its chief executive, Matthew Elliott, yesterday. "The Tory party has moved onto our agenda."
The TPA also claimed authorship of George Osborne’s public sector pay freeze and that no public sector worker should earn more than the prime minister without the Chancellor approving it. The TPA also urge the wholesale abandonment of cherished Labour achievements: the secondary school building programme, child benefit and Sure Start centres for young children.
The media too-especially the rightwing press- have proved deliriously receptive to its messages:
“In the last year the Daily Mail quoted the TPA in 517 articles. The Sun obliged 307 times, once bizarrely on page 3 when a topless Keeley parroted the TPA's line against energy taxes. The Guardian mentioned the group 29 times.”
The term ‘Alliance’ suggests that the TPA has some kind of democratic legitimacy, that it represents the voting public in some kind of genuine fashion. Indeed, it claims to be: ‘the guardian of taxpayers money, the voice of the taxpayer in the media and their representative at Westminster’. The Guardian had investigated the TPA’s sources for its £1m annual funding and discovered 60 per cent of it comprised donors giving £5000 or more to the Conservative Party. Moreover one of the group’s directors lives abroad and does not pay any UK tax.
Perhaps inevitably after this Labour sources called foul. Former Deputy Prime minister, John Prescott, denounced it as ‘nothing more than a front for the Conservative Party’, calling on the BBC-which regularly interviews TPA staff- to clarify its umbilical links to the Tories when its representatives are quoted or interviewed.
The Chief Executive of the TPA, Mathew Elliot, dismissed the attack, claiming it was as hard on the Conservative councils who wasted money as it was on Labour and pointing out its donors had once given to Labour in its earlier days.