So how did the less than double figure delegation from the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA) fare in the unfamiliar surroundings of Ashton-under-Lyne? As I noted yesterday, few were inclined to stop and talk, and even those that did were not given an open and transparent overview of the TPA agenda.
So nobody was told that the TPA wanted to abolish the minimum wage, or lower the poverty line – both of which would significantly impact on the income of those market traders the group was so enthusiastically chatting up yesterday. And that group gave the impression of not devoting more than around half its time to the process of persuasion, much of this to no avail.
Beats campaigning - Liam tries to look stylish
But Liam Billington did one very important grassroots campaigning thing: an “interview” on film (actually with campaign manager Robert Oxley), which can later be shown as reinforcing the campaigning message, despite the act involving neither campaigning nor grassroots. It did, however, have the benefit of being really stylish.
Meanwhile, Maria Fort cursed her shoes, which were held to be on their way out. The information was relayed to anyone within, oh, 20 metres or so, whether they wanted to hear it or not. This minor sideshow merely confirmed that the TPA is all about the triumph of style over substance, the lack of significant effort confirmed by Robert Oxley, who spent much “campaigning” time sitting on the Town Hall steps.
Beats campaigning - and that's the Campaign Manager
And, most significantly, none of the group gave any sign of knowing that the office of the council they were demonising was open until 1300 hours, and they could have gone in and made their point directly. But, as experience of the TPA has shown, that is not how they do business: actually being knowledgeable about Government is not part of their modus operandi.
Moreover, when those working in the service of Tameside Council appeared at Ashton’s Market Square, the TPA’s finest were elsewhere: there having been a bank holiday at the start of the week, it was no surprise to see the market’s bins being emptied on a Saturday. Andrew Allison could at no time have been snapped in the same shot as those workers – not with the widest of lenses.
The lasting impression of observing the TPA “campaigning” is not only to confirm that the labelling as “grassroots” is a sham, but also that it is about them, and not the general public. And the failure to engage with the organisation they are demonising, despite the opportunity being there, merely confirms this.
Because what yesterday demonstrated was that TPA “campaigns” are nothing of the sort: this was a scruffy and lazy rabble deploying little effort and more than prepared to spin the result in the retelling. Except that this time they were observed – and overheard – offering the public their selective and ultimately false prospectus.