Poll Tax and beyond

Paul Nicolson, London

Since the poll tax in the 1990s I have been living in a permanent state of humanitarian indignation at the misery of debts enforced by the state and the private sector against statutory minimum incomes, in work and in unemployment, which are so low that debt is inevitable.

That is the largely unrecognised consequence of adherence to an extreme free market ideology and the lack of a policy to provide affordable housing.  One success has been raising the money for Zacchaeus 2000 to commission the research from the Family Budget Unit in 1999, on which UNISON and London Citizens persuaded Ken Livingston to base the London Living Wage; but the international free market in British land and in the private rented sector raises rents so high that the purpose of the LLW is destroyed. 

I endeavour to put Christian ethics into practice both from a personal point of view and when considering the legal structures though which Parliament has created such misery for our poorest fellow citizens. We are required to put them first. It is not easy in either the personal or the public arenas. I do this without allegiance to any political party because of their tendency to put gaining power above leading on the principles of justice; we are sometimes ruled by opinion polls.

The central ethical principle, which Christians share with all people of good will of all faiths and of none,  is to “love your neighbours yourself”. It appears in the Holy books of all the major faiths; or, in secular language, “do as you would be done by”,  which is part of the ethical opinions of humanists and atheists. It applies to the creation of laws as much as to personal behaviour. It is the acid test of all law making which is currently left in the parliamentary bottle. The classic case is ministerial home owners taxing the empty bedrooms of tenants on benefit but not taxing the empty bedrooms of home owners.

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