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Tuesday 20 September 2011

EXCLUSIVE: TPA Abandons “Grassroots” Campaign

What a difference a fortnight makes: in early September, the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA) began what was to have been a series of “campaigning” days with a visit to the Manchester satellite town of Ashton-under-Lyne. But, following a less than ecstatic reception from the public, and the revelation of the whole farcical business by this blog (HERE and HERE), the “campaign” has been quietly dropped.

While the TPA’s Andrew Allison was happy to advertise the appearance in Ashton’s Market Square, the next venue – in Southampton, an easier journey for the TPA’s London based staff and supporters who would have been needed to substitute for the lack of real grassroots – was mentioned only briefly, by Research Director John O’Connell. The reasons behind this are not difficult to ascertain.

Since the excursion to Ashton, the TPA’s characterisation of union representatives’ facility time as “taxpayer funded trade unionism” has been challenged, and wherever there are shades of grey, the TPA is absent. And O’Connell’s defamatory smear of trade union reps – saying they “dip back in to taxpayers’ pockets” (“dip” is slang for “pickpocket”) – has won his team no friends.

Worse then came for the TPA when Liam Billington, their representative in the north west, who O’Connell had praised as “brilliant”, maliciously smeared the Labour Party by asserting that an arson attack on the Stalybridge Labour club was an “insurance swindle”. Billington was caused to remove the offending remark from Twitter, but the damage had been done.

Moreover, the knowledge that the TPA “grassroots” had been exposed as a sham clearly weighed on the decision on whether to go ahead with the trip to Southampton. Zelo Street can now reveal that this excursion was called off, but kept quiet in the hope that nobody would notice. No more “campaigning” days have yet been scheduled.

Zelo Street can also reveal that an increasing number of trade union members and their representatives have been made aware of the TPA “campaign”, and of the gratuitously unpleasant remarks the group has been making about them. Of course, if the TPA really does have a grassroots following, a few rotten lefties won’t stop them carrying the day.

But, as is becoming clear, the TPA does not have any grassroots. And, if there is to be a next time, there will also be questions over their advocacy of an end to the minimum wage, lowering the poverty line, ending transport subsidies, and increasing the income tax burden on pensioners and freelances.

The TPA is therefore in a lose/lose situation: whether they campaign or hide themselves away, they’ve been rumbled. Game over.

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