Blood pressure time

7 May, 2012 (19:40) | All articles | By: Stuart Fraser

I made the mistake of watching Question Time again last week, never good news for my blood pressure.

That hideous loathsomeness Ian Duncan-Smith, rewarded for pitiful, abject failure in his last job with riches and influence beyond the dreams of even Tory avarice in his current one, berated PCS Union leader Mark Serwotka over forthcoming strike action by his members over pensions.

Only a small percentage of members had voted, said the failure, so how dare the union inconvenience us hard-working good people by taking strike action on so slim a mandate?

Serwotka replied with something instantly forgettable and thereby fell several steps in my estimation.

I would have been across the table before the failure had stopped talking, my hands wrapped around his scrawny throat as I spat through clenched teeth into his face:

“You sit where you sit on a mandate of less than 10% of the population, on less than a third of the vote, on a turnout of less than even two thirds of the electorate, governing on policies you didn’t even have the decency to put to the vote, so don’t you even think for a split second about lecturing me on democracy.

“You say only 22% of members voted as if you know what the members who didn’t vote were thinking…. How dare you? How dare you presume to know what people are thinking or why they do or do not cast their vote?

“I tell you one reason why they don’t cast votes for politicians – because of the likes of you, you pea-hearted throwback, the likes of you patronising them and lying to them and taxing the merry bejesus out of them from dawn to midnight to pay your millionaire friends….

“You want us to take a vote on strike action so we do. Now you don’t like the result. Look, until you get even the faintest grasp of the idea of democracy, chum, until you get even the tiniest hint of the idea, like listening to protest marchers over Iraq or tuition fees, I suggest you shut the f*ck up.”

Management tossed me an aspirin for the by-now stratospheric blood pressure and asked: “Why don’t you get involved in debates like this?” Then she answered her own question. “Because you’d end up ripping off somebody’s testicles and shoving them into his ears, I suppose.”

Glancing once more at the failure Duncan-Smith, I paraphrased the immortal words of Basil Fawlty: “In his case, they’d have to stitch them back on first.”

Gawd bless yer, Ma’am?

I’m not much of a monarchist, as you know, but I’m even less so now. I’ve just found out that the Diamond Jubilee Bank Holiday, that precious extra day off for everybody, is in fact not a precious extra day off for everybody at all.

No, if you’re a teacher or a schoolchild it’s just lost in your usual half-term holiday.

What a miserable, mean-spirited ill-humoured fob-off that is.

If the royals still want to be loved, have they forgotten the way to a kid’s heart is time off school?

VAT’s not the way to do it

On Saturday I did something I very rarely dare attempt: I drove in Cornwall on a Bank Holiday weekend.

As any native will tell you, this is stuff for the foolhardy. Worse, we went to the tourist flytrap of Wadebridge and did some of the Camel Trail. We might as well have worn inappropriate board shorts for the time of year and complained about the price of pasties.

Actually, we did the latter, but only because that wretched imbecile Os…. blood pressure rising, rising…. no, nearly; that wretched imbecile Chancellor is putting VAT on them.

We’re told that death and taxes are always with us, but actually we managed to survive for thousands of years and win many wars including two world ones without the aid of this particular tax: VAT was only introduced by the Heath government in 1973. It was actually a requirement for entry to the European Community, being a tax invented by the French in the 1950s – so it’s obviously a big favourite with UKIP members.

It started off at a rate of ten per cent, but Thatcher bunged it up to 15 per cent and expanded its scope, and Major added another 2.5 per cent in 1991. Massive controversies still rage over what is low or zero-rated, including, now, pasties.

Twenty per cent is a common rate around Europe, but then economic disaster is also common around Europe. Not that you can blame it on the VAT: America has none, and its economy is hardly a model to follow.

What seems to be unarguable now is that VAT at 20 per cent is doing more harm than good.

We’ve done a lot of work on our house. We would have done more, and employed more people, buying more goods, circulating more money directly into the economy, were it not for VAT. A fifth on the price of everything has meant we have done far less than we would wish. In many cases, we have specifically not bought a product because the fifth extra pushes the price beyond the bounds of reason.

Now VAT is to be extended to work on listed buildings, for example, it’s easy to see what will happen: the charities that run them will not be able to afford the extra fifth. Our history will crumble. Less work will be available. Less money will be in the economy.

When Brown temporarily cut VAT, sales improved.

Surely in these desperate times, with a stagnant economy in double-dip recession, this government, like its minister Duncan-Smith an abject failure already, could bite the bullet (every percentage point on VAT is thought, according to the Telegraph, to be worth £4.5 billion a year) and reduce this punitive tax? It’s punitive because it’s broad-based – everybody pays the same, millionaire or pauper. It’s punitive because it stops people buying and doing things. Cutting it back is one way of helping the economy right now.

Of course, you could take up the tax slack by increasing a targeted tax on those who can afford to pay.

But the chances of any of that, with a government by the rich for the rich, are about as good as the chances of a clear road and a sunny sky on a Cornish bank holiday.


Comment from One Old Fiddle
Time May 7, 2012 at 10:43 pm

“You pea-hearted throwback”: classic!! Brother F was firing on all cylinders when this article poured out of him. I think drinks are called for.

Comment from Hamster
Time May 8, 2012 at 1:13 pm

Well said that man! I know its been said before but Value added Tax!….. just exactly where is the value?

Comment from Hamster
Time May 8, 2012 at 1:26 pm

Ian Duncan-Smith aka I.D.S aka Indefensible Detestable Sloth – he’s at it again with the disabled workers Remploy factories – – Remploy was set up after World War II to provide meaningful jobs for people with disability. Factories in Glasgow, Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Wishaw will close. The closures are a U-turn on a Tory pledge while in opposition in 2007.

Comment from Bertie
Time May 9, 2012 at 9:25 am

Suggesting VAT be cut to boost spending sounds like common sense…..unfortunately common sense is something all politicians seem to have surgically removed just as they take office!!

Comment from Hamster
Time May 9, 2012 at 12:16 pm

Last weeks Hamster Top Tip – Just to see what happens, didn’t go as planned. You see I didn’t pay enough attention to the 7 days notice to Management (M) and bottled a walk out. I did inform ‘M’ of the industrial action in the morning only to be told that I’m a bloody idiot and what was it for and who was I, apart from myself, going to inconvenience. “Its more of an experiment just to see what happens” I replied, only to be told it was BS. As the day wore on it was pointed out that I hadn’t supported Hamster Pup No.3 in his Friday evening activity for a few weeks. I firmly stated that I was on strike as of 17:00 and would catch up next week. A few hours passed and I was asked which of the two cricket matches was I playing in over the weekend, both I said smugly. Only to be hit back with a plain and simple ‘OK’ that only ‘M’s can give out…. I crumbled under the pressure….but all was not lost, Brother F carried out the IA in no uncertain style, sent a scathing one word email to me and he had something to tweet. 🙂

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