The so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance first got its foot in the BBC Question Time door in February 2012, when then staffer Emma Boon told the audience that she was “standing up for taxpayers’ money”. This was a finely crafted soundbite, but no more: the TPA is not interested in the welfare of taxpayers. It is an Astroturf lobby group dedicated to demonising Government, public bodies, and public works.
Thus the TPA targets local and national Government salaries and expenses, the BBC, and projects like HS2. But, although it gets its copy in the right-wing press, its actual support base is minimal: it represents no more than one-tenth of one per cent of all UK taxpayers.
That has not stopped the TPA being received on to the pundit circuit, and especially by the BBC. After Ms Boon came the likes of Dia Chakrabarty, and now has come Chloe Westley. Now, Ms Westley may be a highly competent media performer, but that is not the point: she is representing a very right-wing and highly partisan lobby group with the kind of anti-Government agenda which should carry a public health warning.
Worse, after the BBC invited Ms Westley on Question Time last Thursday, she was then given a spot on Daily Politics on Friday, and has now been gifted a place on the paper review sofa of The Andy Marr Show (tm), to be broadcast tomorrow. Yet she enjoys no democratic legitimacy whatever, and represents an organisation which refuses to make public where its funding comes from - any of it.
And, as Zelo Street regulars will know, the TPA has in the recent past peddled rank dishonesty on tax allowances, produced hatchet jobs on the NHS, claimed “taxpayers funded lobbying” that wasn’t, proposed a flat tax system which would see the NHS wiped out, claimed dishonestly that speed cameras cause death and injury, and published a series of untrue claims about HS2 (HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE, for instance).
Small wonder that there has been disquiet that one of this group is being entertained by the BBC, and without the TPA’s right-wing and “small state” ideology mentioned. “So, the BBC are replacing Kate Andrews from the IEA for Chloe Westley from the TPA. Both are secretly funded Tory Think Tanks who believe in no public services included schools and NHS. BBC will be passing off Chloe Westley to viewers as neutral - not fooled”.
That was typical, as were “Chloe 'give Trump a Nobel prize' Westley is now on #bbcdp after an appalling performance on #bbcqt last night. She truly is the Kate Andrews replacement of choice for the biased BBC. I do not care what a lobbyist for tax dodgers has to say” and “Chloe Westley of the Taxpayers' Alliance on #bbcdp after being on #bbcqt last night. Did she come cheaper if the BBC invited her onto multiple shows?”
The IEA being another group not saying who pays was latched on to by others: “Last night on #bbcqt now today on daily politics. Chloe Westley Is the new Kate Andrews. The ‘Think Tank Twins’ beloved of the BBC” being typical. And the question that would not go away was “BBC's new right-wing obsession Chloe Westley @LowTaxChloe makes her second appearance in 12 hours on a flagship show. First question to her should be: Who funds the shady TaxPayers Alliance and who exactly is she representing?”
Why does the BBC give these people houseroom? Curiouser and curiouser.