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Saturday 16 June 2012

TPA – Flight Of Populism

Those who promote air travel have to balance two apparently contradictory ideas: that demand is growing so relentlessly that there have to be, if not more airports, then at least more runways, and on the other hand the notion that all those travellers are not coming to the UK because of our rotten taxes. But this is not a problem for the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA).

More guff from Tufton Street

In fact, it’s something that their ubiquitous non-job holder Emma Boon (now mildly famous for dishonestly appearing on BBC Question Time and asserting that she and her colleagues were “sticking up for taxpayers’ money”) who has the answer to the presentation problem over Air Passenger Duty (APD), which is to cry “what about the holidaymakers”. What indeed.

It would be interesting to find out whether it is business or leisure travel that contributes the most to APD revenue: my thought is that the former should still edge it, despite the growth in short, medium and long haul leisure travel over the past quarter of a century. So it is fascinating to see the TPA appealing to those who by definition are only occasional payers of the levy.

This is, it has to be concluded, another manifestation of TPA populism, their appeal to those “hard working taxpayers” whom they claim to represent, while in reality not giving a stuff about them. That appeal may well form the basis of another of their “grassroots” campaigns, the blatantly dishonest collecting of signatures to claim legitimacy while not letting on about their real agenda.

And the headline – “Stop taxing our holidays” – is also misleading, as not everyone uses air travel to reach their destination. Although the TPA is in the vanguard of agitating against high speed rail travel, from the south-east at least numbers using that mode are set to increase significantly as more market entrants appear. The Eurostar “ski train” will not be a one-off forever.

But Ms Boon does her best, deploying everything in the TPA phrasebook: “negative economic effects ... ordinary families ... regressive tax ... tourism is taking a huge hit too ... we’re losing out ... struggling economy ... damaging effect on the ability of ordinary families to take a well earned holiday ... damaging impact on our economy ... at the worst possible time”.

And, the usual TPA clincher, it’s not “fair”. What, then, is “fair”? Er, what an airline industry lobby group says is fair. Personally I think the airline industry manages rather well on its taxes: no fuel duty for starters, plus competitive landing and handling fees at many airports. And many carriers get away with paying cabin crew far less in real terms than was the case 25 years ago.

But the TPA has to keep demonising Government, hence the pointless campaign.

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