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Who Can Forget the Inheritance Tax Riots of 1990?

April 13, 2015


I now consider myself advanced in years and prone to forget stuff.  Somethings are crystal clear in my recollection and others decidedly hazy.  Take an example. I’ve just heard a British Prime Minister refer to the “most hated tax in Britain”, and that stirred something.  Because I was definitely there – in 1990.  Almost exactly 25 years ago.  It was a warm day in central London. The mood was electric and the explosion of violence was almost hypnotically predictable.  I remember the densely packed bodies in Whitehall, the feeling of being funneled… of orders being shouted by mounted police that were impossible to follow.  I remember sticks in the air in the vicinity of Downing Street and, above all, a collective sense of not knowing where to go – a fear that would soon become anger.

The thing is, I feel morally certain that these riots were incited by “the most hated tax in Britain”.  Now it so happens that I’m so old and stupid I’m not clear as to what that tax was.  But it must have been the inheritance tax musn’t it?  I could waste a few moments checking which tax it was – but why should I?  If I can’t trust Conservative Central Office and Tabloid headlines – then who can I trust?  Yes – it must have been a protest against Inheritance Tax.   And if I wanted to waste time checking my facts, I doubtless discover that in 1990 a socialist government introduced inheritance tax which instantly became “the most hated tax in Britain”.

Because if there’s one thing that people do love, it’s the endless hegemony of inherited wealth, the knowledge that those without property to inherit will be frozen out of every opportunity in life.  Praise be, in the twenty-first century, thanks to £9000 university fees, unpaid internships, etc. etc. Britain has created one of least socially mobile countries in the developed world.

That’s it, surely.  Unless Cameron is a liar and/or idiot, it must have been the inheritance tax that inspired some of the worst riots in London’s relatively recent history.  The mere suggestion that decent people, people who have fulfilled the one great moral law the twenty-first century acknowledges – the commandment to be born into a relatively well off family – could be forced to pay a share of that inheritance to pay of social services – such an obscenity must have provoked all that shouting, broken glass and blood on the pavement in the vicinity of Trafalgar Square.

Since only the “most hated tax in Britain” could have provoked civil unrest on that scale, and since we’re told that inheritance tax is that tax, it stands to reason that the least hated tax would be the least progressive.  Perhaps Cameron should bring in some sort of local authority charge that forces everyone within an community to pay at the same flat rate – rich and poor alike.  Perhaps even a tax on having a vote or a head.  Or a “poll”.  Such an inequitable regressive form of tax would be wildly wildly popular and the government should definitely definitely propose it.

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One Comment
  1. Reblogged this on conradbrunstrom and commented:

    Inheritance Tax – the cruelest tax there is?

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