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Monday 26 March 2012

TPA – It’s Infectious

No-one could accuse Crewe and Nantwich MP Edward Timpson of being part of any extremist or ideological movement within the Tory Party. He is as middling and mainstream as it is possible to be nowadays. He works the constituency most weekends. He talks up local industry. He even volunteered for work at Leighton Hospital, some of that work of necessity menial.

Propaganda Central on Tufton Street

But even he has become infected with the propaganda from the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA). I know this because I am one of thousands within the constituency to receive his occasional email bulletins (today’s is number 116). As befits a Government supporter, he kicks off with the debate over alcohol pricing, telling of the health costs to the local PCT (£31.5 million a year at the latest estimate).

Then, further down the bulletin, his press coverage is summarised, demonstrating how he gets his name and causes into the papers. And here we read that he has taken Cheshire East Council to task over cuts to the Dial-A-Ride service – while its workers are paid “above average mileage rates”. Suddenly, for seasoned TPA watchers, it all sounds very familiar.

And so we know what’s coming right around the corner: “making cuts which affect the elderly and vulnerable while allowing councillors and staff to claim mileage rates 7p above the maximum 45p recommended by HMRC”. HMRC, as I’ve pointed out previously, is not in the business of making recommendations. It is in the business of raising revenue. The claim is bunk.

Back in 2000 – and on this I plead some knowledge because of the car I drove at the time – the mileage allowance was as high as 63p a mile. It didn’t come down to 40p (since raised back up to 45p) because the cost of motoring miraculously fell by over a third, but because HMRC became less generous and effectively imposed a tax rise on motorists using their cars on employers’ business.

But a tax rise is something against which the TPA would normally campaign ferociously, so why not here? This is not known, other than that they have instead turned HMRC’s less generous attitude into a stick with which to beat local Government, something they enjoy doing very much. But the fact remains that the 45p allowance is not a recommendation.

Those noting – correctly – that the TPA has very little actual support, and next to no grassroots, should take note of its ability to get its propaganda slipped into public discourse and made into received wisdom, even when it is factually incorrect. That’s why all those right-wing groups major in media training, and the TPA always has a talking head on hand to put before the cameras.

Because when you control the airwaves, you control the message.

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