Friday, 8 June 2012

Refreshed, back in circulation and my latest Cornish Guardian column

It has been a considerable time since I last blogged. The reason for this is quite simple – I have been away for ten days, on holiday in Ireland. It was a great break and I feel somewhat refreshed for fray …

My latest column for the Cornish Guardian – published on Fridays from now on – is on the “Pasty Tax” and the Coalition u-turn. It is as follows:

Congratulations to everyone who played a part in the campaign against the introduction of the “Pasty Tax.” It is fantastic news that the Government has changed its mind and decided not to impose this new tax, which has been described as “half-baked” and “unenforceable.”

Local MPs and activists from the Coalition parties are clearly relieved and are merrily trotting out the line that we are lucky to have a Government which “listens to what people have to say” and doesn’t always “plough on regardless.”

I am delighted with the u-turn, but I see it somewhat differently to supporters of the Coalition. It is my view that the Government has badly mishandled this issue.

Let us not forget that the “Pasty Tax” appeared as a fully-fledged proposal in a Government budget, even thought it had not been properly thought through. There was no prior consultation and it would be accurate to state that bakers, pasty-makers and local communities were taken by surprise.

Senior Coalition politicians then lined up to defend and justify the unfair tax-hike.

Prime Minister David Cameron claimed he loved a hot pasty, but then got into considerable difficulty remembering when he last ate one.

The Chancellor George Osborne was ridiculed by the Sun newspaper for “heartlessly” telling “hard-pressed Brits” to “avoid his VAT hike on hot food by buying cold pasties.” They branded him a “modern-day Marie Antoinette.”

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg also gave Liberal Democrat support to his Conservative colleagues, making it clear that all proposals in the budget, including the “Pasty Tax,” had the full support of his party.

Worst of all, when Coalition MPs had an opportunity to vote down the tax in April, following a debate in the House of Commons, only 15 Coalition MPs took the opportunity to oppose the “Pasty Tax.” It was backed by 295 Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs.

I therefore consider the climb-down to be especially humiliating for the Government, given that over 95% of their MPs gave their full support to the “Pasty Tax.”

It is important that Cornwall celebrates this u-turn, but we must look forward and continue to campaign for more u-turns in the future. And I believe there are plenty of areas where u-turns are necessary.

Isn’t it time that central government (i) rethinks the nature of its austerity programme which has plunged the UK into a double-dip recession, (ii) reduces the depth and speed of its cuts to the public sector which is causing great hardship, (iii) scraps the tax break for millionaires contained within the budget, (iv) reverses its unpopular plans for the NHS … the list goes on and on.

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