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Monday, 28 March 2011

UK Uncut, Topshop and the Order of the White Feather

UK Uncut is one of the most imaginative protest groups to appear in the UK, rightly drawing attention to the fact that if you are very rich or a very big company, how much tax you pay and whether you pay tax at all is largely a voluntary decision. Her Majesty's Government and even more so Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs have decided that, really, for big people tax is something between them and their conscience. Compulsory tax - PAYE and such like - is for the small people.

Thus Sir Philip Green, Topshop boss, has satisfied his conscience by registering his company (Arcadia Group) in his wife Tina's name and settling her in Monaco.

Sit down protests in Sir Philip's shops are a bit like sending him a white feather. That is what women did in the First World War to men not in uniform who they felt should be in uniform. The idea came from a man (Admiral Charles Fitzgerald)who realised it would be a powerful inducement if it was women who picked out the cowards and sent them their feathers.

The merits of such vigilante action cannot easily be separated from its consequences. There was no merit in bullying men to take part in an utterly pointless slaughter, so enormous that after World War One many of those women who so gaily sent their feathers found that there were no men left alive to marry. (On which subject, try Virginia Nicholson's Singled Out: How Two Million Women Survived without Men after the First World War).

It is the same with UK Uncut. Maybe they will shame Sir Philip into paying more tax. But to what end? Not everything in the public sector garden is lovely. Our political class and their self-satisfied and self-serving bureaucrats are perfectly capable of squandering every penny of extra tax UK Uncut sends their way.

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