Thursday, 30 December 2010

A re-run of the poll tax protests?

The general secretary of the TUC, Brendan Barber, has said that 2011 may be the year in which country says no to government just as in the case of poll tax. The plan seems to be to stage a wave of strikes in the run up to the royal wedding to cause maximum embarrassment to the Government.

Something of a particular reading of history seems to have occurred in the case of the poll tax. There were riots in Trafalgar Square and other acts of defiance, particularly in Scotland. However, what really scared the Government was that they were losing electoral support on the issue and that contributed to the fall of Margaret Thatcher.

They also lost the intellectual case on the poll tax which violated a fundamental principle of taxation originally set out by Adam Smith: there should be some relationship between a tax and ability to pay. I am not sure that the Government has lost the intellectual case on the deficit. Many voters think the country has been living beyond its means.

However, voters think that protests can be effective. In a recent Populus poll, seven out of ten of those polled said public protests 'can be effective ... and played a big part in getting the last Conservative Government to scrap the poll tax.'

One in five could see themselves being involved in protests against spending cuts, while two in five think 'a degree of disobedience and public disorder' is sometimes necessary to make governments take notice of issues.

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