As the “Rally Against Debt” rightly takes its place in history as an object of ridicule, the so-called Taxpayers Alliance (TPA), which had invested much of its credibility in the project for so little reward, has set out along the road to try and limit the damage, while desperately seeking to build up a real grassroots base.
That base never existed – despite its boast of grassroots activism, the TPA has always been an Astroturf lobby group and nothing more – and it was this shortcoming that last Saturday’s event exposed. But weakness cannot be admitted, so the spin cycle kicked in almost before the hangovers from the late session at the Westminster Arms had cleared.
Senior TPA non-job holder Matthew Sinclair went into action early Monday in the sympathetic forum that is ConservativeHome. The rally, he told, “was an incredible event”, there were “hundreds of people”, “some great placards”, and “a range of brilliant speakers”. Well, there was Nigel Farage, and Sinclair is welcome to the rest.
Sinclair’s flannel, sad to say, is contradicted by his own organisation: fellow non-job holder Andrew Allison, on the TPA’s own website, in a post entitled “The Silent Majority”, lets the cat out of the bag when he ends by soliciting help from that “majority”. The TPA’s “grassroots coordinators”, he tells, “will love to hear from you”. I’ll bet they will.
Because right now, the TPA’s supposed grassroots consists, mainly, of Allison himself in East Yorkshire complaining about council salaries, someone in Norfolk relaying the saga of the incinerator, and Tim Newark in Bath banging on about BANES. Newark was, I’m told, the TPA’s North London “branch” before moving to the South West. It’s all very People’s Front of Judaea.
And not even the advocacy of Paul Staines, who occasionally blogs under the alias of Guido Fawkes, when not showing on Sky News (“first for breaking wind”) why he is not appearing on the BBC, could boost the turnout at an event which has shown the rest of the world just how little clout he and the TPA really wield.Not waving but drowning.
I'm really digging the 'Astroturf lobby group' quip. Is this your own work?
Please explain why Taxpayers Alliance get so much bloody airtime - radio and TV when the group is three blokes and their hamster?
"Astroturf" is a term that originated Stateside, to describe groups that claim to be grassroots but aren't. There are a lot of them there, and an increasing number of them here.
The TPA get into the press as they provide a message that chimes with the agenda of papers like the Mail, Express and Telegraph, and they understand how to feed the "News Factory", as Nick Davies put it in Flat Earth News, a book you should read if you haven't already done so.
Also, the TPA always have a spokesman ready. They are media savvy and presentable, free of principle, and completely shameless. Because they get in the papers, they then get on the box.
They have at least ten full time staff, but outside London the so-called grassroots is down to a few individuals. They get noticed by the media but, as was clear last Saturday, have next to no popular support.
That's why their rally was a very bad move.
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