Would you like to be able to direct HMRC not to use your tax money on the apparatus of death, the military? A bill to that effect is being tabled in parliament in May, and it got me thinking.
All that stuff I don’t like – I’d love to exempt myself from it. To dissociate myself from overseas military adventurism, from more road building, from fracking, from littering, from PPI calls to my mobile, and definitely from that woman on the tube who announces, disembodied, that the next stop is Highget – she’s first up against the wall when the revolution comes!
Erm, where was I?
In an uncertain world, where Ben Franklin’s aperçu is apter than ever. The question is not whether we’ll encounter death and taxes, but how. Ruth Cadbury MP, who is sponsoring the bill (as her name suggests, she is a Quaker), knows that the chance of this becoming law is vanishingly small. The government isn’t going to let us choose our taxes. (Unless you, dear reader, are Google, Starbucks, Boots, Uber, Amazon, Netflix, Mondelez (which owns Cadbury. Shame!), or the big investment banks like Merrill Lynch and Bank of America, in which case – brother, can you spare a quid or two?)
The rest of us are dusting down the banners for the anti-Trident demo. Trident is a good proxy for death and taxes. You’re after weapons of mass destruction? Look no further. And as for taxes… Trident – you just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly expensive it is. The latest estimate is £100billion over 30 years. You may think £6 bit steep for a return journey down the tube to the chemist (at Piccadilly Circus), but that’s just peanuts to Trident… (This is a HitchHiker’s Guide reference. Pace those of you too young to get it. Do go and learn it off by heart. You won’t regret it. I don’t.)
What is the point of Trident? To what question is the answer: Well, Trident of course! (Other than: what’s the most expensive willy wave our rulers have?) I’ve never found one. Especially while Britain remains part of Nato. But I’m sure there is an answer to, how many journeys down to the chemist could we all make for £100 billion?
So I march against it, and I campaign against it, and I support my fellows in lobbying Barnet Council to divest its pension funds from arms manufacturers and traders. But not on ethical grounds! (There are overwhelming financial reasons to disinvest.) While the government ensures we have no say over our taxation, it is busy removing the scope of our representation. The government proposes rules aimed at stopping pension funds from “politically motivated boycott and divestment campaigns against UK defence companies”. The Cabinet Office was due to issue guidance last week to punish locally-imposed boycotts, including those targeting tobacco, arms, fossil fuels, etc. Nothing is certain these days it seems, except death, taxes, and the anti-democratic reflexes of this government.
For more on conscientious objection in taxes see www.conscienceonline.org.uk