This week played host to Tax Freedom Day, the day on which you stop working to fund the government and start to keep the money you earn. This year it fell on May 28th specifically, but it has fallen in the last week of May for at least the past decade, unmoved by the coming of the Coalition government.
Tax Freedom Day is not to be confused with Cost of Government Day, which is the date reached when the cost of government borrowing is factored in. That falls on 26th June this year according to calculations by the Adam Smith Institute, although the TaxPayers’ Alliance, which includes cost of regulation in its calculations, puts it nearer the end of July.
The TaxPayers’ Alliance chose to illustrate Tax Freedom Day on their webpage with this graph:
I can’t see where it originally came from, as it doesn’t relate to Tax Freedom Day specifically. Rather, it shows the main household costs (on average) – housing, clothing, food, as compared to the main taxes we all pay – income, VAT, national insurance and council tax. As you can see, the cost of government is by far and away the biggest bill that housholders are burdened with.
With the European Election behind us, all eyes are now on the General Election 2015. The parties are drawing up their battle plans, but it’s unlikely that they will stray too far from their current narratives.
It is clear that Miliband’s Labour party is going to continue to push their ‘Cost of Living Crisis’ line – the idea that any recovery we might be experiencing is not being felt by ordinary working folk, who are struggling to stay financially afloat thanks predominantly to high housing and energy costs.
By contrast, the Conservatives and Lib Dems will be rolling out good news story after good news story – on GDP (set to rise by a mammoth proportion now that illegal activities have been included in the tally for the first time), employment figures, inflation and so on – in an effort to persuade the electorate to stick with them.
There are obvious drawbacks to both these positions. Despite an uplift in GDP wages continue to fall in real terms. Most people do not feel better off and may therefore be unconvinced by the coalition parties’ good news stories. Yet the solutions that Labour are presenting are a clear return to old Labour style socialist politics. Many voters will remember the last time Labour tried to price-fix certain industries, and the disastrous consequences it had, so may not be convinced to back them again this time.
However, what is abundantly clear when looking at the raw figures, is that what we face is not a Cost of Living Crisis, but a Cost of Government Crisis. It is here that Ukip can present a radically different narrative that resonates with the public.
The case is very easy to make. One need only point out that the cost of petrol at the pumps is 70% tax, or that income tax is the biggest single bill paid by the vast majority of those in work to present a clear argument that people do not feel better off because the money they earn is being forcefully taken from them to prop up and overlarge, inefficient and increasingly undemocratic governmental structure. Simply pointing that out undermines both the Coalition and Labour positions immediately.
We have already flirted with this idea with two of our billboard posters, rolled out for the European election.
But I would like to see much more of it. There seems to be a general feeling throughout the party that to focus on immigration to the extent that we did during the European Elections may not have been the best strategic move. Although the discussion on immigration is certainly important, it does have two major drawbacks: firstly, it’s too easy to become drawn into debates on what constitutes ‘racism’, which divert attention from the overall message; secondly, immigration is a localised problem. Where I live in rural Sussex, people can’t understand why we mention immigration at all.
As we head toward the General Election, we need to demonstrate that we are an outward looking party with a grip on all the issues facing people. The gladiatorial arena in which this election will be fought will be an economic one, as austerity continues to dawdle on into the foreseeable future.
Ukip have already made a name for themselves as the party that dares to speak the truth. We can capitalise on that by focusing explicitly on the Cost of Government Crisis – which leads neatly into discussions on the size of the state as well as pure costs – over the coming year.