From the TUC

The legitimate union voice

10 Dec 2008, By

A few days ago I posted on what I thought was a rather oddreport on the Politics Home website that (to me at least) seemed to go to great lengths to reassure readers that unions hadn’t had any influence on the governments recent decisions to negate the the worst effects of the downturn.

Reading the post back to myself I think I struggled to make my point which was that it never ceases to amaze me the lengths to which many people go to doubt the legitimacy and appropriateness of an organisation representing over 6.5 million people (all of whom join of their own free will with the vast majority of them also paying for the privilege) having some influence over public policy in the UK.  

Compare this to the Taxpayers Alliance an organisation that is regularly featured on radio programmes, quoted in the press (indeed their website makes a feature of the amount of media coverage it gets – apparently on average it is quoted in the media around 13 times per day) and claims to wield some influence over government.

As for who the Taxpayers Alliance is, well in its mission statement it describes itself thus;

The TaxPayers’ Alliance is Britain’s independent grassroots campaign for lower taxes. After years of being ignored by politicians of all parties, the TPA is committed to forcing politicians to listen to ordinary taxpayers.

Now, there are approximately 28 million working people in the UK, the vast majority of whom pay tax, add to that the multitude of other individuals who pay tax on savings and via VAT etc.  That’s quite a lot of “ordinary” tax payers.  My point here is that the Taxpayers Alliance has just 20,000 “supporters” yet they are frequently given airtime and space in the press to advocate apparently on behalf of you and me.  By the way, to be a “supporter” you simply provide them with some personal details via their website and there’s no fee.

The truth is that the Taxpayers Alliance (aside from obviously having either a pretty good media operation and/or having quite a few influential supporters in the media) is just another lobbying organisation that purports to represent people without taking the trouble to ask them or at least seek some commitment from its “supporters” in beyond getting their name and email address. 

They may represent an opinion – lower taxes are better than high taxes – and a political view – governments waste money – but they dont actually represent anyone in a sense that most would people would recognise the term – and certainly not in the way that trade unions do. 

Current union density may not be at an historic high, but unions can certainly claim to be more representative of working people that the Taxpayers Alliance are of “ordinary taxpayers”.  There are also around 200,000 unions activists who work alongside and represent their colleagues . Add to that the fact that unions can only get recognised if workers want them to be and you get a genuine state of representation and legitimacy in advocating on their behalf that the Taxpayers Alliance and other such groups can only dream of. 

Finally, for another view of what “ordinary” taxpayers might think you may wish to visit the following websites;

The other taxpayers alliance

and

They just dont get it