We must unite to tell the Tories enough is enough in this divided country – Susan Dalgety


As the rest of Britain struggles to come to terms with 8 per cent inflation, a nearly £800 a year rise in energy bills and a 1.25 percentage point hike in national insurance, it was revealed earlier this week that Rishi Sunak’s wife – who shares several homes in the UK with her husband and children – claims non-domiciled status.

In other words, she ticks a box on her tax return that says she is not a permanent resident of this country so she can avoid paying UK tax on the income from her stake in her family’s Indian tech firm.

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That stake is not a handful of shares, but is estimated to be £690 million, and tax experts calculate that the Sunak family could save as much as £300 million in taxes because of his wife’s decision to declare she doesn’t really live here . At least not for tax purposes.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak is under pressure about wife’s tax arrangements, which some claim could have saved the family £4m last year. Meanwhile, ordinary people are suffering on a fundamental level given rising costs and taxes, writes Susan Dalgety. PIC. PA.

It took the Chancellor a few hours to gather his defense about his family’s legal – but hardly ethical – financial arrangements. She hasn’t done anything wrong, I’ve argued. The attacks are unpleasant, I whined. It’s a political attack on me, I have claimed.

But nothing, absolutely nothing, he says will change reality. The man in charge of Britain’s economy, who decides the level of tax we all pay, who could mitigate the cost-of-living crisis with a few carefully crafted interventions, benefits from a tax scheme which means that his family saved around £ 4 million last year.

Meanwhile, ordinary families are being forced to switch off their heating and reduce their weekly supermarket shop because they can no longer afford the modest standard of living they enjoyed in 2021.

Social media has been awash these last few days with tales of how we all eleven survived living in unheated homes. Memories of three-bar electric fires, ice on the inside of windows and coats as extra blankets abound – but no-one, save a few die-hard conservatives, expressed a desire to return to the bad old days.

“We worked hard to contribute to the wealth of this country, to ensure we progress as a society so future generations have it better than us, just like generations before us fought hard for rights and conditions that brought us better health,” said one anonymous Twitter account, @NorthernPeg.

So, are we going to sit by and watch as that progress stalls, then goes backwards? Are we content to live in a country where mothers have to depend on charity for a few packs of pasta to feed their children? Will we shrug when we read of households with pay-as-you go meters who must pay £15 a month in standing charges before switching on even a light bulb? Or are we going to rise up as one nation and demand that Sunak and his boss Boris Johnson fix the cost-of-living crisis?

People power has changed things before. Mass protests across the UK forced the Tories to abandon the hated poll tax only three years after it was first introduced in Scotland. The Scottish Parliament only exists because of people power. A coalition of political parties and civil society argued long and hard for devolution, using every campaigning tool available to them, including large demonstrations.

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And recently, Glaswegians stopped the closure of their public libraries after organizing a successful campaign which included a rally outside the Scottish Parliament and regular street protests.

Since 2008, we have endured the Great Crash and the Tories’ austerity policies that punished the poorest in our society, while the bankers, the people who caused the problem, got off scot free. And then we dutifully shut down our lives in response to the pandemic, sacrificing two years of normal society to protect strangers we would never meet.

In return for our sacrifice, we face an unprecedented cost of living crisis that will see millions plunged deeper into poverty.

Opposition parties have come up with policies to mitigate the worst of the crisis. On Thursday, Scottish Labor leader, Anas Sarwar, unveiled his party’s council elections manifesto, which included a windfall tax on oil and gas companies that would reduce household energy bills by up to £600. And he suggested capping the price of local bus journeys at £1.80 and cutting rail fares in half for three months.

But the harsh truth is that the Tories are in power in Westminster until 2024, unless Boris Johnson decides to call an early election. Sarwar and Labour’s UK leader Keir Starmer can – and should – put the case for what they would do if they were in power, but people need action now.

And the only way we will get the Tories to act is if we make our voices heard. For too long now, politics has been personal, where identity is the only thing that matters. But the cost-of-living crisis affects every one of us – gay, straight, black, white, Scots or English. Only the very rich, like Sunak, are protected from its impact.

We need to unite with one voice, get off social media and onto the streets. Organize peaceful demonstrations and rallies in every city and town, from Inverness to Truro. Demand a windfall tax on the energy companies that are forcing so many of us into hardship. Tell the government we have had enough.

The Labor Party could take the lead in organizing the campaign, but this is not solely a party-political issue. This is about what kind of country we want to be, not the one politicians force on us.

Thirty years ago, people power ended the poll tax and Margaret Thatcher’s premiership. Is it too much to hope that in 2022, a new generation of people power could force another Tory government into changing its mind about a tax? Ending the career of an out-of-touch Chancellor would be a bonus.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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