There are few organisations for whom the gap between hype and reality yawns so wide as the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA), and this was demonstrated superbly today when the supposedly grassroots outfit turned up in the Manchester satellite town of Ashton-under-Lyne for a couple of hours’ “campaigning”.
Ashton-under-Lyne: Uncle John the pieman
Local TPA man Liam Billington had put the word out, and “grassroots coordinator” Andrew Allison had posted an item on the group’s website, telling that the TPA would be campaigning against alleged “Taxpayer Funded Trade Unionism”. A delegation even came all the way from London. So who got the long straw?
Sadly for those wanting to see any of the really main men at the TPA, the arrival at Manchester’s Piccadilly station of the 0840 hours train from London Euston did not bring Jonathan Isaby (late of ConHome), Matthew “Gromit” Elliott, or the appalling Matthew Sinclair, although it did disgorge technology person Dominique Lazanski, campaign manager Robert Oxley, and hanger-on Maria Fort.
This trio wandered up Platform 5 into the Piccadilly concourse, there to gaze on the new-fangled departure board, where they were dismayed to find no trains to Ashton-under-Lyne advertised. Sadly for the TPA delegation, the bar for this particular aptitude test was set a little high for them: the train to Ashton leaves from the city’s Victoria station. And they weren’t on the next one of those.
So it was no surprise that, when the advertised 1200 hours start time arrived, the TPA’s finest did not: only after another quarter of an hour did the group assemble outside the old Town Hall. And what a motley band it turned out to be: apart from the three from London, Billington, Allison and research director John O’Connell, I counted just two more. Thus the true depth of the TPA grassroots.
Behold the depth and style of the TPA grassroots
After the group photo, the stress was clearly significant for Andrew Allison, who needed a nicotine fix before further significant exertion. Allison in the flesh was another of those great disappointments: a small and insignificant figure clad in a cheap and nasty jacket. The rest of the delegation was hardly smart casual either, and with no badges to boot, the product did not exactly fly off the shelves.
And this was the unintentionally hilarious part: seeing Maria Fort (deploying a slightly brash Stateside accent) trying to waylay the locals in the place she called “the town centre in Tameside” (she’ll go down a storm in Stalybridge), only to see them suddenly realise that they had urgent business elsewhere. But at least she and Ms Lazanski spent some time attempting a little persuasion.
Even though most locals were not interested. More later [Part 2 HERE].