From Canvey Island, amongst the solemn pledges to stand up for the common man and small businesses alike, emerged a rather brilliant message from Farage’s speech at yesterday’s campaign launch: UKIP will tackle the ‘cost of government’ crisis, as well as the so-called ‘cost of living crisis’.
We’ve all heard of the cost of living crisis; Labour’s slogan of choice. Uttered with painful regularity and without a hint irony by the party that crippled the country’s finances, opened the country’s doors, brought PFI into the NHS, signed up to EU green taxes that have forced millions into fuel poverty while pushing jobs and investment offshore and increased stealth and “sin” taxes ten-fold.
But – and I cannot speak for everyone – I would wager that in fact the biggest single cost to all net contributors is not the energy companies nor the private landlords that take such a bashing from the left but the government itself.
Looking back over the past year, if I was to combine the percentage of my income that I’ve been forced to shell out through VAT, energy taxes, income tax, national insurance, petrol duty, aviation taxes, alcohol taxes and a one off, crippling dose of stamp duty, I feel that the single biggest issue facing me, and therefore the primary factor determining who I will vote for, is indeed the cost of government.
This is UKIP’s greatest talent; speaking to people about topics they care about in a way that makes people listen. In doing so they cut through the predictable political verbiage that speaks only to other politicians, commentators and activists.
A perfect example of politicians shouting about issues that they think will make good political capital, issues that they think ordinary people should care about while in reality most of us couldn’t give a fig, is this week’s debacle over HSBC.
The shocking news that an international bank had been using international jurisdictions to protect its clients’ money from the grasping claws of various tax-hungry states has seen politicians fall over themselves to criticise the banking giant while simultaneously promising bigger and further reaching reforms than their rival.
Never ones to miss any opportunity for botched point scoring, Labour called David Cameron “a dodgy Prime Minister surrounded by dodgy donors”, using parliamentary privilege to criticise the “tax avoidance activities of (Tory donor) Lord Fink”, the owner of a Swiss bank account, and nearly facing a legal battle of his own for his efforts before switching his attacks to “dodgy” Tory donations from HSBC account holders in general.
This row over HSBC and tax avoidance looks set to continue: two Commons select committees have announced that they will investigate the disclosures. Now, I’m not defending serious money laundering but setting aside the small detail that this all took place before 2007 – nearly ten years ago – I am not convinced that this is an issue with which any politician might capture the nation’s hearts.
Yes some people are angry, most of them Labour sympathisers, but I very much doubt anyone outside of Westminster will give it more than a cursory grumble, let alone go as far as to move their own bank accounts to a financial body that doesn’t want to protect other people’s money from the increasingly tax-hungry state. Most of us, from the centre-left to the right, don’t suffer the politics of envy gladly; just because we don’t all have the funds or indeed the means to move those funds beneath the radar, whether it be via Switzerland or Belize, we don’t feel the same revulsion as Miliband’s ilk does toward those that do.
We all feel the cost of government and the heavy burden placed upon us by successive governments. Most of us have embarked on a little tax avoidance in our times whether it be through making use of an ISA, buying duty free, exploiting the seven-year loophole to avoid inheritance tax, accepting a cash in hand payment or even an off-shore bank account. Even the arch tax crusader himself, Ed Miliband, is thought to have avoided inheritance tax on his parents’ home.
It is basic, common sense to pay as little tax as possible. I would go so far as to say I want my politicians to use every method available to them to legally protect their own money because it might mean they will be more concerned with protecting mine too. Government is an ever-increasing expense, the burden of which is felt more heavily when money is short.
The quickest and easiest way for any government to tackle the ‘cost of living crisis’ is to first tackle the cost of government crisis, and I would bet my house that decreasing the crippling tax burden and drastically simplifying the tax system would lead to a dramatic decrease in aggressive tax avoidance, freeing up the politicians time to worry about more pressing matters than those of HSBC’s antics last century. If UKIP are prepared to do this, they have my vote.