A group that claims to represent ‘taxpayers’ has accidentally exposed itself online

Taxpayers' Alliance
John Shafthauer

The so-called “TaxPayers’ Alliance” has been drawing attention on social media recently. The problem for the group is that not all publicity is good publicity. Especially as the group’s recent tweets have been drawing attention to what people really think of it.

The TaxPayers’ Alliance

The blurb for the TaxPayers’ Alliance website describes it as:

The grassroots campaign for lower taxes, government transparency and an end to wasteful government spending.

But how ‘grassroots’ is it really? A Guardian article from 2009 exposed some interesting information about the TaxPayers’ Alliance and who ran it:

Alongside a fund manager, a petroleum geologist and a former chief economist at Lehman Brothers on the board, the directors include a retired teacher who lives in France and does not pay British tax.

The same article states:

The board now features no one who could be described as just an ordinary taxpayer.

It also mentioned that the group was accused of being an “arms-length Tory front operation” by Labour MP John Cruddas. The Guardian itself found that:

a large part of its funds come from wealthy donors, many of whom are prominent supporters of the Conservative party.

Current team

The group’s current management and senior team includes:

ANDREW ALLUM – CHAIRMAN

From the TaxPayers’ Alliance site:

From 1998 to 2002 Andrew served as a Conservative member of Westminster City Council. He left the party in 2003, having lost faith that it represented his brand of free market, individualist and compassionate politics.

JOHN O’CONNELL – CHIEF EXECUTIVE

From an article he wrote:

May’s speech also contained worrying populist pledges on curbing executive pay. Some big businesses and their boards have made poor decisions on pay deals for their executives – few contest that.

But… May proposed worker representation on company boards.

EMMA BENNETT – FINANCE DIRECTOR

The TaxPayers’ Alliance site says:

After studying International Relations at Exeter University, Emma worked in the European Parliament for a MEP before moving to London to work for a MP in the House of Commons.

It neglects to say the MEP was Roger Helmer of UKIP. Helmer has made numerous controversial statements, and resigned as an MEP in June 2017 ahead of demands that UKIP repay £100,000 of allegedly misused EU funds. The other employer was former Conservative MP Andrew Tyrie.

SARA RAINWATER

The TaxPayers’ Alliance site says Rainwater:

worked for Sir Bill Cash MP, running his organization the European Foundation

Bill Cash is a Conservative who claimed £15,000 in expenses to pay his daughter’s rent. A former patron of the eurosceptic European Foundation was Margaret Thatcher.

Transparency?

As mentioned, the TaxPayers’ Alliance calls for ‘government transparency’. Yet the group itself is notoriously opaque about who funds it:

Another area in which it lacks transparency is its social media. The group is clear about wanting to cut taxes and overspend:

But many think this is a ploy to remove services entirely – not a campaign to improve them:

You can get an idea of what the TaxPayers’ Alliance would cut in its own “landmark” Spending Plan.

Cuts

Chairman Allum says in the opening of the Spending Plan:

Getting spending under control is about much more than dealing with a tough fiscal climate. Reducing public spending should be part of a big picture strategy: it would mean lower taxes for families across Britain, less debt for future generations and faster economic growth, generating prosperity for all.

This is a notion that hasn’t really been borne out by eight years of austerity. The Spending Plan goes on to suggest the following cuts:

Bizarrely, the Taxpayers’ Alliance has also made a game out of cutting departments; you can actually select departments for the chop to see how much you’d save:

The list of things you can cut includes:

  • Department of Energy and Climate Change.
  • Universal free school meals for pupils in reception to year 2.
  • Raise state pension age to 67 by 2021.
  • Cut Child Tax Credits to their 2003-04 level in real terms.
  • Flatten Housing Benefit rates across expensive areas to cut 10% off bills.
  • Reduce the welfare cap to £20,000.

You can also opt to:

  • Increase the extent of charges in the NHS.

And at the end of this quiz, you can share it with your friends:

Awareness

Social media is great for groups who want to raise awareness. It’s less great for groups that would rather you didn’t know everything about them. And the TaxPayers’ Alliance isn’t the only right-wing group to have social media backfire recently.

Still though, not everything about the TaxPayers’ Alliance is apparent. And the most important question still outstanding is who exactly funds the group? Because it doesn’t seem to be taxpayers.

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