Just how important IS Bill Nighy to progressive taxation?
Today, all eyes are on President Hollande of France and Chancellor Merkel of Germany, holding a summit on the European Union during which they will discuss the 11-country European Financial Transactions Tax (FTT). Yesterday, though, over 140,000 eyes were on the new Robin Hood Tax campaign video (less if some of you watched it while dressed as a pirate), starring Bill Nighy, Andrew Lincoln and others.
Some people were outraged that we got an actor to … er … star in a work of fiction. Apparently Paul Krugman or Joe Stiglitz would have been better, or something (we tried, I think, but their agents said they weren’t taking acting gigs this year. Or ever, in fact. They’re not actors, see?) But I thought I should explain why we use Bill Nighy so much to front up Robin Hood Tax campaign materials.
First, and there’s no getting around this, Bill’s just a bloody good bloke, and a really good actor, especially if you want him to play a morally dodgy but slightly conflicted top British banker. He’s committed time and energy not only to the Robin Hood Tax, but to Oxfam’s work on helping the poorest and sickest people on the planet. And he’s recruited many of his creative friends to do the same.
As he said this week:
“Four years after the launch of the Robin Hood Tax campaign, this tiny tax that could do so much good is on the verge of becoming a reality: France, Germany and nine other European countries are about to introduce it. It would be deeply regrettable if the rest of the world were caught on the wrong side of history. Introducing the tax alone will not be enough, the billions it will raise need to be invested in tackling poverty at home and abroad and fighting climate change.”
But secondly, Bill gets us heard in the cacophony that is today’s 24-7 media scrum. He gets people to watch what we do, and he gets the media to cover what we say. That’s really the key answer to the question, as Toby Young vacuously misunderstood in the Daily Telegraph yesterday. When we published a letter in support of the Robin Hood Tax by over a thousand economists, each with a doctorate in the subject, we did get some coverage, yes, but comparatively little, and not from Toby Young, a man so superficial he doesn’t even realise what superficial is. If we hadn’t used Bill Nighy, Toby Young wouldn’t have written about us!
We’re not saying governments or people should take Bill Nighy’s word for it when he advocates a Robin Hood Tax (although this is a democracy, and he’s as entitled to his opinion as anyone else) and neither is he! He’s just a man, standing in front of a camera or a word processor, asking you to agree with him about a tiny tax that could make a big difference. (And hat tip to Richard Curtis, too, for almost all the words in that last sentence, although they’ve been cobbled together from various sources….)