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Our Crack Tongue & Groove

commentarctic.jpg Just give him half a chance...

I bet he’ll rob you if he can… Alex Turner and his fellow Arctic Monkeys: I bet they look good on the tax avoidance scheme.

For the title of the Arctic Monkey’s debut (and still best) album, they borrowed a line of dialogue from Alan Sillitoe’s classic Angry Young Man novel, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning: Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not. Pithy, reeking in disaffection and snotty rebelliousness, it cast the band as hard-to-pin down desperados, fully intent on fighting the good fight armed only with citrus sharp lyrics and baggage-free riffs. It’s just a shame that whatever people say they are now is, in fact, exactly what they are: massive tax avoiders.

They, along with thousands of other high-earners and celebrities (George Michael, Katie Melua and Gary Barlow among them), were recently fingered by the Inland Revenue for taking part in a tax-avoidance scheme called Liberty, which deprived the country of millions of pounds. This morally repugnant skull-duggery would stick in the craw at the best of times, but, for many, these are the worst of times with welfare hacked to the bone, job insecurity sky-rocketing and wages stagnating or falling. The recent public sector strike saw the right-wing press denigrate teachers, fire-fighters and those who empty our bins as “wreckers”, criticising them for wanting a wage that kept up with inflation. “The country can’t afford it,” was the Tory cry, but this demonstrable poppycock seems even more absurd when we learn how much tax has been lost since they came to power, with 33,000 of the richest earners deliberately avoiding paying £5.1 billion in tax. In these straightened times it appears that we need to reiterate the whole idea of what tax is and what it does.

Tax isn’t a “burden” or a “necessary evil”. Tax is a golden ticket; a ticket which teaches your children, gives you financial help when you lose your job, keeps our streets clean, runs Sure Start centres, arrests criminals, gives you a pension, tidies parks, keeps libraries running, puts fires out, gives you hospital treatment. In short, it is the price we pay to live in a civilised society. Ever since Margaret Thatcher’s time in power of course, the Tories have chipped away at the very idea of society (“there is no such thing” she famously opined), never mind a civilised one. But now it seems that we must also contend with the likes of the Arctic Monkeys not believing in it either; or if they do, simply the fact that once they’ve made their pile, they no longer want to contribute towards it.