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I’d be hopeless as a politician. Retreat to rational debate gets you precisely nowhere when you’re up against the gong-clangers and firestarters of the populist mob-stirrers.

So it’s with some mixed feelings that I write about an utterly bizarre story that looks like it might actually work against the interests of the TaxPayers’ Alliance.

Ah yes. Them. (A reminder about my problem with them.)

In this particular story they’ve done two odd things. Firstly, they’re sounding off about the failure of local authorities to stop doing a thing they’re legally required to do; a thing which helps ease the pressure on, erm, taxpayers. Right. (As I publish this, I see that @tim2040 has written along similar lines, including the point that collecting such a tiny amount of money is something of an unwanted chore for the councils in any case.)

But if you dig into the detail a bit, it becomes a bit more clear that they’re actually hoping that the whole legal requirement bit gets wiped out. Ok, but that’s the second odd thing.

Because the TPA has this peculiar Jekyll & Hyde characteristic. On the one hand, the cowardly, rent-a-gob demagoguery of the “I can’t believe they’re spending money on THIS” faction, hauled out to berate, well, anything delivered by public services – whether or not it’s got much to do with the paying of taxes. And on the other, some rather more worthy aspirations around winding down the role of the state in matters of surveillance and data.

Ok, I am a little suspicious that the weight here might be firmly on the “winding down the role of the state” bit, but the end results are often quite sensible, and bring about useful pressure and scrutiny on some of the heavy-handed nonsense we’ve seen from the current administration and its predecessor.

But usually, these messages are delivered under the banner of the TaxHaters’ close cousin, BigBrotherWatch. And what makes this electoral roll story interesting is that they’ve chosen not to use this sub-brand when opining on something which is natural BBW heartland. My advice would be to look carefully at what impact this might have on their overall strategy.

Is it a mistake? Does it signal an intentional shift in position and brand? It looks very blurred to me. To a rational observer, the sight of the TPA asking a local authority to break the law and spurn a source of income that would make matters easier for taxpayers… I mean, it makes them look a bit silly… which is a good thing, from my perspective…

Oh hang on. I’m doing the rational thing again, aren’t I? As I say, hopeless.

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