The cost of living

I have just started taking pregabalin (Brand name: Lyrica) to treat the neuropathic pain that I have been suffering from. When I was discussing it with some friends I discovered something that seemed quite shocking to me. In the USA there are people that need this drug, have been prescribed it by their doctors, but have been deprived of it because their insurance companies have refused to pay for it. This refusal could be because they do not think it appropriate, or do not accept the reality of an illness that is not necessarily detectable in tests, but the most common reason is expense.

It hadn’t actually crossed my mind that pregabalin might be an expensive medicine. My doctor has a nice flowchart of what drugs to try for my illness and what order to try them in, and this one was next on the list. In my blissful ignorance, I simply take the prescription from the doctor to the pharmacy, and walk away with the drugs. All costs covered by the NHS. Since I have long term chronic illness, I am exempt even from paying the £7.20 prescription charge that most people would pay for their drugs.

All of this got me thinking; what if I had to pay for my medicine? Would it even be possible? I currently have twelve medicines on prescription. If I were to pay even the standard prescription charge, with the NHS covering the rest, my medicine bill would come to £86.40 per month. At the moment we are struggling to even pay for our rent, bills and food, so this cost would be crippling. But without the NHS? My drugs would cost much much more. I did some research, and I present here what I would pay for my most important drugs.

  • Metformin (Glucophage) £12.28
  • Gliclazide £1.86
  • Olmesartan Medoxomil £10.95
  • Bendroflumethiazide £0.91
  • Pramipexole £35.66
  • Sumatriptan nasal spray (Imigran) £35.39
  • Naproxen £4.20
  • Pregabalin capsules (Lyrica) £64.40
  • Codeine £5.39
  • Paracetamol £1.62

Total cost: £172.66 per month.

In the USA it would be even worse. Here are the best prices that I could find. (Via www.pharmacychecker.com)

  • Metformin (Glucophage) $50.40
  • Gliclazide $17.22
  • Olmesartan Medoxomil $18.20
  • Bendroflumethiazide – no price found
  • Pramipexole $29.68
  • Sumatriptan nasal spray (Imigran) $114
  • Naproxen $11.76
  • Pregabalin capsules (Lyrica) $161.28
  • Codeine – no price found
  • Paracetamol (Acetaminphen) – no price found

Total cost: $411.54 (£255.68)

That is an astonishing difference between UK and US price.If I had to pay all of it myself, I would have to go without many of my medicines, which would basically leave me unable to control my diabetes and my migraines. Apart from the Lyrica, my pain medication is actually very cheap and I would still be able to afford that. Without diabetes medication I would be practically unable to eat and would still have hyperglycemia. Without sumatriptan, my painkillers would not help and the other symptoms of migraines would keep me firmly in my bed. Fortunately the NHS covers my costs and I have some chance at recovery and leading a relatively normal life. Some people will no doubt argue that it is unfair for me to drain so much money from the NHS. They have failed to understand how this system works. When Aneurin Bevan launched the NHS in 1948 he gave the NHS three aims:

  • That it meet the needs of everyone
  • That it be free at the point of delivery
  • That it be based on clinical need, not ability to pay

Treatment for any given individual may very well be expensive, but it all works out in the end. I have paid National Insurance whenever I have been well enough to work. I receive my medicines without paying when I need them. With those medicines, I may well improve enough to work again and pay more National Insurance. The NHS provides for both people that will one day repay their healthcare costs, and people that might not. Even those that will never be able to work and contribute financially will still contribute something to their society by their very existence. And regardless of future financial contribution, would you really want to live in a world that simply leaves the sick to die?

I am very glad that we have the NHS and I will fight as hard as I can to keep it.The government must not be allowed to ruin what we have.

Banks, tax, and offsetting losses

The Telegraph today is reporting that Lloyds will not pay corporation tax until profits hit £15bn. This has been met with outrage and taken as a further sign of injustice in favour of the banks. I must disagree. While I think the banks should be held responsible for their actions which crashed the economy, in this case they are not even using loopholes, simply doing what they are meant to do.

So what are the banks actually doing to avoid so much tax? They are offsetting their losses against future profit. Here’s how it works.

Imagine a small business that made a £10,000 profit last year. The tax on profits for a small business is 20% so they will pay £2,000 in tax.

The following year, the recession hits them and so they make a loss of ten thousand pounds. Unfortunately tax doesn’t work in reverse and they don’t get two thousand back from the taxman.

That doesn’t seem fair, does it? Well to balance things up, the rules allow a company to take that ten thousand loss and offset it against profits over the next five years until it is used up.

So, in the 3rd year of our example business, they return to profit and make £5,000. They should be liable to pay £1,000 in tax on that profit. Instead, they offset it against the £10,000 loss and pay no tax. The remaining £5,000 of the loss is carried forward for future years.

Finally, in the fourth year, our business makes £10,000 profit again. The have £5,000 of their loss remaining, and so they pay no tax on the first half of their profits, and they pay the full 20% on the second half of their profits. Their tax for that year is £1,000 instead of £2,000.

Enough about small business, what about the banks?

Lloyds and the other banks are applying exactly the same rules about losses and tax as smaller businesses do. We are outraged because of all the other loopholes that the banks use such as overseas subsidiaries and tax havens, and because we have paid money in to these banks in the form of bailouts to the tune of at least £850bn. ($2.4tn if you believe the BBC, but according to this government document no one really knows.) and yet we are not getting tax in return, and because the banks caused so many of our economic problems in the first place. The public are right to be outraged over banks paying minimal tax on their profits, but in this case the anger has been directed at the wrong thing. (For the record, I am in favour of prosecuting the banks for their actions, and have never been in favour of bailing out the banks. Let them fail.)

That is not to say that the ability to offset loss against future tax is entirely fair though. What if, for example, BP attempted to offset their losses resulting from oil spills against their UK tax? Given the environmental damage that they have inflicted and the strong likelihood that wilful negligence contributed to the failure of their equipment and structure, I am firmly of the opinion that it would not be right for them to offset. There is a good case for restricting the offsetting of losses incurred overseas too. Perhaps we should consider preventing the offsetting of losses incurred as a result of negligence or deliberate policy.

One last question to leave you with. RBS has just paid out £950m in bonuses despite incurring losses of £1.1bn. Should they be allowed to offset that £1.1bn loss against tax next year?

Thanks to Frances Coppola for the discussion which prompted this blog post, and to @Puffles2010 and @ntlk for help in finding the numbers.

UK Uncut doing it right…Annoying Glenn Beck

When Glenn Beck is ranting about you, you know you’re doing something right. It’s almost as good as being hated by the Daily Mail. Keep up the good work, UK Uncut, US Uncut and Canada Uncut. The more right-wing nutters we annoy, the better.

Yes, Glenn, Get informed. The Uncut message is simple and compelling, and you should be afraid of it.

While I was checking this story I had to search for Glenn Beck on Google (A horrible task, but someone’s gotta do it.) and I found an article in the Christian Post about Beck meeting Billy Graham. Here’s a revealing quote:

In last year’s Gallop poll, Beck tied with Billy Graham for the top ten “most admired man.” Nonetheless, some evangelicals remain wary of Beck’s Mormon faith and motives.

…..

On his radio show last March, Beck outraged liberal Christians by telling people to leave churches promoting “social justice,” arguing that it was “the rallying cry on both the communist…and…fascist front.”

In response, Sojourner president Jim Wallis demanded Christians to boycott Beck’s TV and radio programs. Afterwards, Beck called Wallis “an apologist communist for atrocities in Cambodia,” in apparent retaliation.

“Most admired man” – really? And calling social justice “communist” and “fascist” too? Pretty revealing when you put those labels on caring for people. Americans seriously need to sort this out if they want to restore any kind of reputation else where.

Pepper spray used at peaceful protests again

Once again police have used incapacitant spray against peaceful protesters. The police followed two protesters to Kings College in Cambridge following a protest. They were told by porters that they did not have permission to enter, but they did so anyway and proceeded to arrest the two protesters, one of whom was a sixth-form student. During this incident they are reported to have used incapacitant spray against a number of students. Commonly referred to as Pepper Spray, incapacitant spray used by UK police is most likely to be CS spray, although it could also be PAVA or capsicum.

This is an extremely serious matter. CS spray is classified as a prohibited weapon under the Firearms act 1968, and police officers are exempted from this legislation in order to do their jobs. As a such, the use of CS spray is discharge of a weapon and must be fully justified as a last resort to prevent imminent danger of physical harm. Not only that, the official ACPO guidance on incapacitant sprays specifically warns against the use of CS spray in crowd and protest situations. It is not clear in this instance why the spray was used but from watching the video, imminent physical danger seems unlikely. The question must be asked; is the use of CS spray against protesters simply the actions of one or two heavy handed police officers, or does this represent an official step towards more forceful policing?

It is also interesting to note that police are not normally allowed entry to the university without permission. Permission was explicitly and repeatedly denied them, and yet they entered anyway.

NOTE: Unfortunately since I wrote this the video of this event has been marked as private on Youtube. I can only speculate that this is for legal reasons. I will leave it embedded here in the hope that it will be made public again in the future.

More information

Varsity: Chaos on Kings Parade

The Cambridge Student: Police cause outrage as two students arrested inside King’s College

Cambridge Defend Education

Previous articles

More attacks on the right to protest: CS spray

More information about CS spray and UK Uncut

UK Uncut on Newsnight

Do we live in a police state?

 

 

Pain Perception

If you have ever been taken to hospital, think back to when you saw the triage nurse. You would have been asked a question, “How much pain are you in, on a scale of 1 to 10?” The first time this happens to someone, they will nearly always aim high. Broken bone? Headache? Burn? They will all be reported as 8,9 or even 10. But then something worse happens. Perhaps that rates at 10. But that means that the previous pain can’t have been 10, so it must be re-evaluated and bumped down to a lower number.

Tolerance of pain varies completely from person to person though. Some people can shrug off pain that has others clutching at the affected area and swearing or shouting about how much pain they are in. I would imagine that they rate the same pain as somewhat lower on the scale than others.

On my own personal pain scale, my neuropathic pain is sitting somewhere around 3 or 4 this morning (With the aid of quite a lot of painkillers) but without painkillers can often by around 8 or 9. I would rate my migraines, which are very debilitating, as about 7, although I once would have said they were 10. The migraines had to be bumped down the list a bit because the perianal abscess that I had last year definitely has to rate at 9 or 10 and was the most pain I have ever endured. I think there must be worse pain than I have experienced, for example the extensive damage inflicted by a road accident must surely be more painful than my abscess was.

This presents a problem for people that experience lots of pain. When going into hospital and being asked to rate the pain, giving 4 as an answer gets you dumped to the back of the queue. A pain level of 4 is not a problem. And yet, that 4 may well equal the pain of the next person to answer the question, who having no further experience of pain, will answer 10.

There’s no solution to this problem that I can see. Pain is entirely subjective and cannot currently be measured, and if it were to be measured, the sensitivity and reaction to pain in the subject would also need to be measured in order to rank the severity of each case.

Still, as a bit of fun to lighten up a horrible subject, go take a look at the pain scale over at Hyperbole and a Half.

What price on being pain free?

The biggest symptom that I have suffered from in the last ten years that I have had ME has been punishing, disproportionate fatigue. Recently, though it has been overtaken by pain. All the old aches, headaches and migraines that I have had for years as part of M.E, but also sharper pain in my muscles especially when touched or pressed, and burning pain through my arms, legs, hands and feet. I’ve already exhausted a few types of medicines over the years, having worked my way through the standard painkillers, (paracetamol, ibuprofen) Tricyclic Antidepressents (Amitriptyline, Dosulepin, etc) which are used for their pain killing properties rather than for depression, SSRIs, (Prozac) and Opiates. (Codeine, Dihidrocodeine) There are a good few that I have tried but can’t remember too.

I never had much success in quelling the headaches and muscle aches before, but this new pain is even more persistant. I have reached a point where I am taking paracetamol, naproxen, and codeine but still at points can be found curled up in my bed shaking with pain.

When I saw my doctor on Monday she took me through the flowchart of drugs for treating neuropathic pain and the next on the list was pregabalin, otherwise known as Lyrica. (Note: Lyrica, not Lycra. My pain treatment is not stretchy obscenely tight clothing.)

When I told other people that I would be starting Lyrica, I got some very strong reactions. Several people told me that they had had a horrible experience taking it and would never advise anyone else to do so. Several others told me that it was alright for them, and some told me that I was very lucky to get it and that they were jealous!

So what could be wrong with Lyrica? Well it certainly isn’t a drug that you turn to first. In fact you have to be quite seriously ill before a doctor will even consider giving it to you. It can be very effective in the treatment of pain but the drawback is that a great many people taking it suffer side effects. Wikipedia lists these as follows:

  • Very common (>10% of patients): dizziness, drowsiness
  • Common (1–10% of patients): visual disturbance (including blurred vision, diplopia), ataxiadysarthria, tremor, lethargy, memory impairment, euphoria, constipation, dry mouth, peripheral edema, loss or decrease of libido, erectile dysfunction, weight gain

Quite a list, that as many as 10% will encounter, with even more becoming dizzy and drowsy. Stopping taking Lyrica can also be quite a problem:

After stopping long and short-term pregabalin treatment, you need to know that you may experience certain side effects. These include, trouble sleeping, headache, nausea, feeling anxious, diarrhoea, flu-like symptoms, convulsions, nervousness, depression, pain, sweating, and dizziness. (Taken from the Patient Information Leaflet)

I already knew this information at the time I had been prescribed the medicine, but after I announced on Facebook that I would be starting to take it, I got a new rather panicked message in reply.

The side effects are horrendous, you wouldnt even be able to do any writing as your brain will not work. sure , it did take away all my pain which was wonderful but i was left as a vegetable, not even able to watch tv! i was put on them by the pain clinic but my gp took me off them and it took months to come off them as they are so potent! and the pain came back with avengance! but on good days i do have a brain ! it still only you that can decide and hey, you may be the fortunate one that gets all the benefits and none of the side effects. i do understand your pain but it was a disaster for me and another friend who was prescribed it for deep seated pain. it was awful! i was a zombie! life was not worth it. i couldnt walk or talk straight so was on the sofa all day every day and i didnt even get to the dosage that they wanted me on….but i did sleep!

Not a hopeful outlook then. However, I considered this carefully. As far as I can tell, less than ten percent of patients get these side effects, which means that 90% don’t. I think, on the whole, the possiblity of escaping the pain is worth the risks of trying it for a while, even if I then have a few more days of problems as I come off of it. If it kills my mind, there is no question, I will stop taking it. I would rather be stuck in my bed crippled by the pain but still be able to think and communicate than to be a mindless zombie but not in pain.

Today I had my first side effects. I was trying to get out of my flat and into a car. I was distinctly wobbly as I left the house, using my walking stick without even complaining (I hate the bloody thing) as I was that unstable. When I got to the car I started to turn to try and sit down and I collapsed. My legs went form under me, my world was spinning round and I was falling, grabbing on to the car and completely failing to stay upright. Having decided that going to the train station to continue with the journey as planned was not the best idea, my dad offered to drive us there instead. (100 miles each way! My dad is awesome.) We stopped at my parents house on the way for a a bit. I tried to take my coat off before sitting on a sofa, and once again collapsed, face forwards into the sofa. Fun.

I’m hoping the wobbliness will cease, but tomorrow is a busy day with a funeral and a family gathering to deal with and I am quite worried that I am going to have to be more or less carried everywhere.

What I need to focus on is that point in a few days time when the Lyrica starts to work, and I might, if I’m lucky, be rid of the endless pain that is burning and tearing at my body. Then it might just be worth it.

In which I talk about abortion and upset everyone

A lot of my friends on twitter have been discussing abortion from a feminist pro-choice point of view. Many of my friends on Facebook have mentioned abortion from a Catholic pro-life point of view and requested that I go and sign petitions or join groups against it. I’ve decided to try and work out what I think, and probably upset all the Christians AND the feminists in one go. This is an emotive subject and it can’t be written about or debate without upsetting someone. I have been assured by several people that they will still be my friend whatever I write here, so I just want to remind them that I have that in writing! If you’re going to be upset by reading opinions, or call me names because of it, don’t read this.

As a thirty-something man I often feel that feminists think I am not allowed to comment on some issues. I comment here as a husband who knows what it is like for his wife to have a pregnancy scare at a bad time, and also as a former Christian, a skeptic and an advocate of science. I am not telling anyone what to believe, and I do not force anyone to change their behaviour because of my opinion on this subject. This is what I think, not what I am telling you to think. So don’t attack me on it.

Unlike the idea parodied in the famous Monty Python song, I don’t believe that every sperm is sacred, nor every egg, and not even every fertilised egg. How can it be, when of thousands of sperm and thousands of eggs, only a very few will meet and fertilise, and of those, most will not implant, and even then, a blastocyst may well not stay attached to the lining of the womb? The logic that says otherwise does not stand up to scrutiny. Accordingly, I have no problem with the morning after pill. (There goes the Christian vote.)

At some point between fertilisation and birth, a fetus becomes a living human being, conscious, and capable of feeling pain. We don’t know at what point that happens. Once you have a baby that can move, kick and feel pain, I think a woman’s choice is no longer relevant. There are two people involved, not just the mother. The baby is a living being, a human, and has human rights. End of story.  (There goes the feminist vote.) I am fairly sure that self awareness and learning to respond to outside stimulus continues long after birth, and so what is the difference in consciousness between a 23.5 week old fetus and a week old baby? That is a genuine question, I’m not trying to evoke emotion to back an argument either way.

Currently the law allows abortion up to 24 weeks through a pregnancy. Some MPs have campaigned for that limit to be reduced to 20 weeks. The earliest known surviving birth is at 21 weeks. I believe that the 24 week limit is political, not based on facts. I’ve heard a fetus described as “just a clump of cells” but I have also seen abortion decscribed as “deliberate procedure of hacking an unborn child to pieces in the womb.”  In reality the development of a baby is a continuum and we do not know enough to be able to pinpoint a change between clump of cells and living baby.

In 2007 the commons science committee investigated the issue. A Guardian report said this:

“A report on the scientific issues surrounding abortion published yesterday by the Commons science and technology select committee finds that survival rates of babies born before 24 weeks are not high enough to warrant cutting the limit.”

I strongly object to that phrase “not high enough to warrant” as I am of the opinion that any possibility of survival from that early means that an abortion could be ending the life of a living being. Ultimately though, I have no more knowledge of when the limit should be than anyone else does.

I accept that abortion is a necessary evil in some cases. UK law currently allows an abortion to take place later than 24 weeks in certain circumstances:

  • if it is necessary to save the woman’s life
  • to prevent grave permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman
  • if there is substantial risk that if the child were born, it would suffer from physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped.

I think those are a good guideline for when an abortion should happen at all, not just when a late abortion is allowed. I don’t like the idea of aborting a baby because of detected illneses, but I can live with that. I certainly don’t like the idea of ending pregnancy for other reasons such as finance, career, or just not wanting to be a parent. I honestly don’t know what I think in the case of rape.

However, and this is important, where I have said that I don’t like it, that is my opinion and I do not have any right to force that on anyone else and so I won’t.

Soph Warnes has put up a very insightful response with lots of links to more information on her blog.

Erasing the past

I am currently bedridden, suffering from ME and an as yet unidentified further illness. Twitter is my lifeline and is what has been keeping me sane, and I have managed to produce some ten thousand or more tweets in the last three months. Having finally given up any hope of managing to work, even through my computer from my bed, I have just started the process of applying for ESA and will be judged on whether I am fit to work or not before I can receive it.

I started to worry that my heavy use of twitter could be used against me in this process. I have already explained how and why I can use twitter without that meaning that I am fit to work, but I also worried that my tweets could easily be taken out of context. For example, a tweet about undertaking an activity of some sort could be used as proof that I can do that all the time. What an investigator would not see is how good or bad a day I was having, how much I had to prepare for and work around the activity, or how much pain and exhaustion that activity would cause for days afterwards.

I think the rumours of investigations into ESA claimants usage of social networks are probably not true, but I don’t want to take that chance. I do not have the energy to fight through an appeal should I be declared fit to work.

And so, on Thursday I took the drastic step of deleting all 12,272 of my tweets. I am fully aware that deleted tweets are not really deleted. Although they will no longer appear in my timeline, they are still there to anyone that knows the direct link to the tweet, they will still appear wherever they have been retweeted. (And some have been retweeted more than a hundred times.) They have been indexed by Google and by Topsy, and many others. What I have tweeted can be quite easily found by someone that is really determined, but I simply wanted to put my tweets beyond the reach of fairly incompetent researchers. Someone that I know has done the same thing to prevent trawling by tabloid journalists.

If you are interested in doing the same thing yourself for any reason, I used two tools to do the job. I had to use two because the first one did not work completely. The first was Twitwipe, found at http://twitwipe.com/ and the second was Tweet Eraser, found at http://www.tweeteraser.com/

—Addendum—

This post was intended as a quick explanation for friends that were asking my reasons, but has suddenly become rather popular and has had 500 views in a few minutes. The irony of this has been pointed out to me. If you are here investigating me, please make sure you read all my reasoning, and don’t misquote me.

Relevant earlier posts

If you can tweet you can work, and other such lies

Nothing to hide? I pity you

If you can tweet you can work, and other such lies

Picture the scene: I am lying in bed on my front, with my head turned to the side. My right arm is flat on the bed, a phone propped up by my hand. The only part of me moving is my thumb, pressing the on screen keyboard. Pain is tearing through my body, what I feel in my arms, my legs and my hands is agonising. I don’t have the strength to lift any part of my body from the bed. And yet, I have one, tiny connection to the world  – I can send messages out through twitter, and I can receive replies, 140 characters at a time. This is my often my only interaction with anyone else at this point. Through twitter, I can talk to friends, take my mind off my pain and discuss something – anything else. When the pain is too much, I’ve got a support group of fellow sick people and we can commiserate about the pain.

Fortunately, I am not this incapacitated all of the time. No, much of the last few weeks I have been so energetic that I have been able lie back on a pile of pillows and type on a full keyboard for as much as a few minutes before the searing pain in my hands sets in. Sometimes, gasp, I can even make it to a different room in the house for a while.

And yet, according to Nadine Dorries MP, my usage of twitter means that I can work. I can’t get out of bed most of the time, but apparently I am a scrounger who is defrauding the benefit system.

Last September Dorries made a request on her blog for people to look out for people tweeting too much and report them to her. She also asked people to report anyone who tweeted a lot while on benefits to the Department of Work and Pensions. She went on to pick on someone who was waiting for surgery for arthritis on both feet for their prolific use of twitter.

It gets worse. There are now rumours that ATOS (The company paid to assess people, who have been known to declare people fit for work just before they die from their illness) will be checking twitter and other social networks for activity that indicates ability to use a computer for any length of time. Because, you know, that makes you fit for work. Now this may just be rumours, but it shows a huge problem with public and government attitude to the sick and disabled.

I want to work, I really do. I own a business that my father and I have built up over the last 17 months into something that has the potential to go somewhere. I started my business as a last resort, since both of us are disabled, to try and provide part time work for myself that could be done when I have the strength to do it, not strictly between 9am and 5pm. I have been trying to build up more web hosting and design work, and I even tried to carry on working from my bed when this relapse started nearly three months ago. Unfortunately I have reached the point where brain fog has killed my concentration, and pain and fatigue won’t let me keep going to long enough to finish any work related tasks.

I can write, but I couldn’t tell you when or how much I could write. I can tweet, but that’s because tweets are short, and (mostly) fit in between bouts of brain fog which stops me completing my thoughts. I can set up a website without leaving my bed, but who is going to hire me to do that when it might happen now or it might take me weeks because of my health? I could be brought a customers computer to remove viruses from, but then not have the strength or concentration to do it for days.

The fact is, I can’t work. I am not employable. If I had ANY chance at all of working, I would be desperately trying to save my business into which we have sunk time and money and worked so hard for the last year and a half. I have hurt myself trying to run my business and have had to give up and apply for ESA because I have no other choice. And yet, because I have a variable, invisible disease, I am highly likely to be deemed “Fit for work” by the Work Capability Assessment. I won’t have the strength to appeal against that and I won’t have a Citizens Advice Bureau to help me because they are all being shut down.

So I am going to carry on tweeting and blogging. I have precious little other contact with the world and I will lose my friends and my support group if I don’t. Someone looking at my online activity and judging me on it cannot see how long each blog post took me, or the pain that I have to endure to even communicate with others online. The portrayal by government and by media of all sick and disabled people as scroungers and cheats is disgusting and yet good people that should know better are taken in by it. If you think I should just lie here and be miserable while I wait to be denied my ESA, then screw you. You are the problem.

More on the despicable behaviour of Nadine Dorries

BMJ: Well enough to work? A report on ATOS by a GP.

Guardian: Frequent tweeting doesn’t make one a benefit cheat, Nadine Dorries

UK Uncut has chosen its targets well

David Allen Green (Who I otherwise respect greatly) has written a quick note on his blog at New Statesman to say that UK Uncut are protesting against the wrong targets. He says “The UKUncut protesters should campaign for more funding for HMRC and improved tax legislation. If they should be protesting anywhere on a miserable day like today, it should be outside the Treasury.”

He is wrong, and here is why. Shouting at MPs achieves nothing. David Cameron recently said “It will make me unpopular. I recognise that. It’s my duty.” I don’t know what motivates our MPs (Well I have some idea, but that’s for another day) but one thing we know is that they never change their minds.

Making life hard for big business, on the other hand, makes things happen. Shutting down Vodafone shops and embarrassing Barclays makes things happen. HMRC is briefing its staff on UK Uncut. Boots, Vodafone, Barclays and other businesses have been forced to respond to negative press coverage with hasty press releases. Protesting in high street shops has made more happen than tens of thousands gathering in parliament square has.

Green argued that UK Uncut needs to campaign for better tax legislation and policy. They are campaigning for precisely that! You could argue that they are protesting indirectly by going up against business, but given that those businesses all have very large amount of influence over our tax policies, I say it’s a direct protest.

Green also suggested that protesters should target Labour since they got us in to this situation where companies can avoid so much tax. Well yes, we know Labour were just as bad as the Conservatives, if not worse, but they aren’t in power right now, are they.