The Poll Tax was the biggest blunder of many committed by Margaret Thatcher. It deservedly brought about her downfall, having exposed so ruthlessly who Thatcherism was for, which was the rich and powerful, and who it was against, which was everyone else. Theresa May may have already embarked on her own ruinous Poll Tax journey which will end in tears. Hers.
I bow to no one in my belief that Mrs May is out of her depth in the top job. Like most other top politicians, she is self-serving in the extreme, having cleverly positioned herself to take over from David Cameron when the EU referendum result went the “wrong way”. Self-serving and cynical. Hardly qualities to recommend, but both are required to reach the top of the slippery slope.
So far, May has hidden behind empty slogans, such as “Brexit means Brexit” and the usual tosh about the head of the Tory Party being there for “ordinary working people”. When she has made a decision, as with handing over Hinkley Point to the Chinese and French governments, she vacillates for a while and then nods it through. This is no leader. With the government’s indecision on social care, she will surely live to regret it.
In Philip Hammond’s autumn statement, not only did he fail to mention an NHS in crisis, he failed to mention the crisis in social care. Both are caused by inadequate funding by the government, the second even more so given the extraordinary level of cuts inflicted on the sector. And May’s solution? Some of the cuts will be made up by allowing councils to increase council tax, in many cases substantially. What this means is that central government has taken money away and expects local government to claw the money back from council tax payers. That’s you and I, my friend, and it’s a hell of a lot more if you live in a city or town than in the Tory shires. In other words, just like with the Poll Tax, those with the least will pay most. It is, quite frankly, robbery.
I find it hard to believe that the government has really thought this through. Understandably, May is up to her eyeballs with the insoluble problem of Brexit, something that will certainly take up the vast majority of her time as PM, and that of her successors too, so maybe she has taken her eye off the ball. Imposing what is essentially and very deliberately a huge tax hike by the backdoor will not go down well with many Tory voters, or anyone else for that matter. There are suggestions that because of shortfalls, some councils may need to increase council tax by a sixth just to stand still, or only go backwards very slowly.
The reality is that caring for people costs money. We live in a time when people are growing older and with that more people need care. If that’s what we want, we will have to pay for it. We can choose to do so collectively through our taxes or just allow the elderly and vulnerable to cope, or fail to cope, on their own.
I don’t believe this is some kind of conspiracy to allow the NHS and social care to collapse and then privatise everything, although many on the right would just love to do that, because our leaders are not that bright. May, David Davis and Liam Fox are not brighter than your average Joe on the street. I sense that this is more the politics of cock up than conspiracy.
Thatcher thought she was a genius bringing in the Poll Tax but the sheer unfairness of the system was brutally exposed early on. By the time she retreated, it was all too late. Social care will do for May, if Europe doesn’t do for her first, which it does to all Tory leaders.
Soon, we will all get huge council tax increases and most of us will wonder what we are getting in return, other than much less than we had last year. The British have a spirit to get on with things, regardless of how bad things get. May is hoping that will see us through the next decade or so of Brexit chaos and she may be right, but when people are being screwed for money that was formerly paid through central government, the worm might just turn.