Posted by Tania Kindersley.
Yes, yes: today, it's what I think about VAT. Let joy be unconfined. I know that it is what you have been waiting for, but did not quite dare ask. Now the glorious moment has come.
I am officially still on hiatus. It was really just going to be trees today, but it's as if the engine of news has revved itself up again, and is chugging away outside my front door. (Of course I know that the people to whom the news is happening, in Queensland or Ivory Coast, do not have the luxury of being able to turn it off for a few days.) Suddenly, it seems I must have opinions again, and it turns out the VAT furore is doing cartwheels in my mind.
You may have noticed by now that I have a bit of a thing for the received wisdom. Can't bloody stand it. It's so smug and lazy and set in stone. It's what my old dad calls 'making statements'. People just think if they say it loud enough everyone will fall in line. The received wisdom on Value Added Tax is that it is a regressive tax that hurts the poor the most. The current rider to this is that the reason the evil Tories are putting it up is because they hate the poor people, and want them to have no shoes. If you disagree with this, then you are mad or bad.
I am quite blazingly stupid when it comes to matters of economics. The moment I see one of those special graphs that the money people like to use, my brain breaks for the border. But in my secret bleeding liberal heart, I have always suspected that VAT might be rather a good tax, because it is a charge on consumption. The more you buy, the more you pay. It seems to me this is sensible in two ways. First of all, it is a way to get those filthy rich hedge fund managers who are the current bogeymen du jour. No accountant on earth can get them out of it. If they want to buy a £200,000 Lamborghini, they automatically devote £40,000 of that to the Exchequer, who can spend it on schools and hospitals. Second of all, it is a way of catching all those new Russians and Hong Kong plutocrats and Mrs Philip Greens in the tax net. These people may pay their taxes in the Monte Carlo, or not at all, while they swan about London, using all our facilities, but they also shop. Every time they waltz into Asprey, they send a little VAT towards a teacher's salary.
Clearly, I am naive and wrong about this, since all available received wisdom says that VAT is the work of Satan. Yet I am amazed to find I am in excellent company. The societies I admire most are the Scandinavian models. Year after year, Denmark, Sweden and Norway top every list of national well-being and good governance, without breaking out of a canter. Their VAT rates are all at 25%. So where are the headlines that say: Coalition apes Nordic model?
The other thing I love, apart from challenging easily mouthed homilies, is a sense of proportion. VAT is going up by 2.5%. This means that something which cost £10 yesterday will cost £10.25 today. Every hundred pounds spent will have another £2.50 on it. Obviously, for people on very tight budgets, £2.50 is not nothing, but neither does it seem catastrophic. I'm not a crazed deficit hawk, but it does seem to me that asking the children and the grandchildren of the next generation to deal with a national debt of close to a trillion pounds and a structural deficit of £170 billion is not progressive or moral. I'm just saying. You can start hurling the rotten fruit now.
Today's pictures are, you will be astonished to hear, of dogs and trees.
The last of the snow, rather sadly lingering like an unwanted party guest:
With no dramatic winter landscapes to shoot, I have reverted to my adoration of tree bark:
And moss and leaves:
Some very old conifers with a very young chestnut:
The always lovely beeches:
Wild beauties, sniffing the wind:
And ready for close-up:
Today's view of the hill:
(This hill thing may get a bit same old, same old, but I suspect I may persist with it for a while.)