“Where are the real rightwingers hiding? I don’t mean George Osborne, Michael Gove, Liam Fox, all strutting their stuff in plain sight. I mean the practically unelectable, the kind of men and women who, unlike friendly Dave, ordinary people would really prefer not to have a pint with.
Well, I can reveal that they’ve been esconced in the “Freedom Zone” at Bridgewater Hall, hosting fringes about how to cut further and faster. I went to one, organised by the TaxPayers Alliance. The panel (all male) addressed an (overwhelmingly male) audience on topics such as how to “find more programmes to cut”, why improving public services is counterproductive because it means the’ll only ask for more money, and the fact that even Chinese communists now think the British state is too big.
Glancing to my right I noticed, among the impeccably groomed (and it has to be said, fairly young) audience was the clenched jaw of Otis Ferry, who is presumably hoping to head off a fairly chunky inheritance tax bill. Towards the end an audience member suggested that the TPA campaign to end the 50p rate of tax alienated voters, and mightn’t it be wiser to target taxes that affect poorer people? Doesn’t the alliance risk being seen as the voice of privilege? Matthew Sinclair, the director, was adamant. The TPA wasn’t a party and didn’t have to get itself elected, he scoffed. There was a principle at stake and opposition to the 50p tax was right. So there you are. I don’t think the TPA worries about being seen as the voice of privilege because it manifestly is. The beneficiaries of inherited wealth out for their own. Makes the Tea Party seem charming. Makes Osborne seem like William Beveridge.”