Tag Archives: language

Communities, majorities, lobbies, and “The Taxpayers’ Alliance”

A blog hosted on The Economist site, of all places, questions the name of a particularly noisy Right-wing UK special interest group—and counterparts in the US:

ONE of the many things that irritate me is people putting themselves forward as self-appointed “spokesmen”, claiming to speak on behalf of enormous masses of other people. Examples are everywhere: the Board of Deputies of British Jews, for instance, proudly calls itself “The Voice of British Jewry,” as if it’s possible for a 350,000-strong grouping that includes the Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm and the caricature capitalist Sir Alan Sugar to speak with one voice on anything much. The Confederation of British Industry claims to be the “Voice of Business”, as if businessmen were some kind of communal, ant-like hive mind (aren’t they meant to be competing with each other, not cooperating?) Usually, the best we can hope to hear from such outfits is the views of the majority of those who could be bothered to join up.

One particularly striking example is the Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA), which agitates for cutting government waste, lowering taxes and shrinking the state. It’s effective, too: it boasts of scoring over a dozen media mentions a day; some of its advisors have close links with the governing Conservatives. But the name “Taxpayers’ Alliance” is misleading, since it implies that the TPA is speaking for virtually everyone in Britain (since almost everybody pays some tax or other). Okay, few people would support government waste. But there are plenty who don’t like the idea of shrinking the state, including, I would guess, many of the 8.6m who voted Labour at the last election.

Were I a cynic, I might suggest that the TPA’s name is designed to make it sound like some kind of grassroots movement standing up for the ordinary, honest citizen (indeed one of the TPA’s aims is, apparently, to “give taxpayers a voice in the corridors of power”). In fact, of course, it is nothing of the sort: it claims 20,000 members, or 0.03% of the total number of taxpayers in this country. The TPA says that its aim is not to represent the views of all taxpayers—that would be impossible, of course—but to represent their collective “interests”. But again, this is rather disingenuous, since what a rich property magnate with a second home in the Carribbean thinks is in his interests is unlikely to be what an unemployed single mother on a Glasgow estate thinks is in hers. It’s like the attempt we recently noted to call Republican anti-tax activists “taxpayer protectors“.