Tuesday 26 June 2012

The Olympics are all about sport, like socialism is all about fairness

Hands up everyone who believes that the head of IT at RBS-NatWest will not be in line for a whacking bonus this year.

I see. And do you also, by any chance, believe in fairies? Hold that the moon is made of green cheese and that the euro is a great engine of prosperity? Have you already placed a bet on England to win the 2014 World Cup? Do you eagerly look forward to the London Olympics and imagine that socialists are keen to pay tax?

I do not have space to tackle all these delusions, but let me deal with a few. The person in charge of computer systems at our favourite state-owned bank will surely deserve an exceptional reward for giving us a real taste of what life will be like if and when the euro finally implodes and takes our banking system with it.

Plus, of course, some additional bunce for sorting out the mess, if and when they ever do. Personally, I’d try turning it off at the plug and leaving it for a minute or two. That nearly always works for me.

As for England’s sporting prospects, I know nothing whatsoever about football, except that every recent humiliation seems to involve our players’ inability to score penalties. So here’s an idea. Why not try practising that a bit before the next tournament? There is no charge for this advice.

Then there are the Olympics. Could anything be more ludicrous than the half dozen or more police motorcycle outriders I encountered on the M6 last Wednesday, escorting not some head of state but a common or garden van and bus containing the sacred flame?

Which trundles around in this inflated convoy until it reaches a centre of population where it can be handed to a “runner” who will, on the evidence so far, almost certainly be unable to run either because they are even fatter than I am, or lacking the usual number of legs.

No wonder they commissioned those shapeless white torchbearer costumes, apparently sharing a designer with the orange jump suits worn at Guantanamo Bay.

Actually, something could be much more repulsive than that. Namely the cordoning off of “Olympic lanes” in London, making our capital resemble that of some totalitarian state, and the equally loathsome crackdown on everyday commercial activities to protect the investment of official sponsors.

The Olympics are all about sport in the way that socialism is all about fairness.

One of the joys of being self-employed is retrospectively handing over large chunks of money to HM Revenue and Customs twice a year. I have never pretended to enjoy it, or believed for a second that the Government has a better idea what to do with my earnings than I do myself.

Yet I have a number of diehard Labour-voting friends who assure me that I am wrong, and that the secret of a happy and fair society is for me to pay even more tax to support those less fortunate than myself.

Only it never seems to apply to them personally. Obviously. I still reel at the hypocrisy of a lifelong socialist who cheerily described over lunch how he had saved himself a million pounds in tax through some jiggery-pokery involving transfers between jurisdictions with different year-ends.

In the same way that these types rejoice in the destruction of state grammar schools, because they were unfair on the kids who could not get a foot on the ladder out of the sink estate. Then send their own kids to private schools rather than the local comprehensive. Because they’re worth it.

So it came as a delightful surprise to find that yesterday’s column by that inveterate left-winger Tom Gutteridge came to exactly the same conclusion that I have been arguing for years. Namely that taxes should be made low, compulsory and ideally flat.

Except on bonuses for IT chiefs at banks that have dropped millions of customers in the proverbial, where a marginal rate of at least 110% should apply.

Originally published in The Journal, Newcastle upon Tyne.

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