Thursday, June 5, 2008

car-taxes fuel the madness of the guilty rich

My friend Barbacana's selling his car.

He doesn't plan to make any money from the sale, profit would be a bonus: all he wants to do, being retired, is to avoid having to shell out approximately £500 in tax, insurance and MOT fees. And that's before he puts petrol in the damn thing.

I have a confession to make here, in that I have something in common with the Prime Minister other than being Scottish. I don't drive. But you don't need to be a driver to see that the rising cost of fuel, doubtless a measure to get money out of savings accounts and into Government coffers, is making the pips squeak all over the place. For instance, food prices. As if the criminaChuck Colson, with thanks to townhall.coml practice, described by Townhall's Chuck Colson (right) of driving up the prices of badly-needed grain by turning not a little of it into biofuels wasn't bad enough, the cost of getting food to shops is rising because it's dearer to drive the lorries (which carry 82% of UK freight). Bicycle-parts, crime novels, red roses and all the rest are rising in price because it costs more to get them to outlets.

Up north in the mid-'90's, I took some driving lessons, but didn't finish them, as I didn't enjoy Chelsea tractor - uk slang for 4x4the experience of driving; so I never bought the Yugo a workmate was trying to flog me. I remarked to my instructor that there were a lot of Chelsea tractors about. He replied with something I hadn't thought about - as well as their growing reputation as a status symbol for people who'd never drive off-road, there was also a rising demand for them among people, predominantly women, who'd been in a car accident or seen the results of one. Gives a new meaning to their popularity on the school run...

In the Budget this March, Darling Brown (right) informed the nation that there would be Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Chancellor Alistair Darlingchanges to vehicle excise duty. Among other things, a new £200 charge on high-emission vehicles - like Chelsea tractors - is to be applied retrospectively to cars bought since 2001. I would have thought that if you bought something legally and in good faith seven years ago, and finished paying for it but still drove it in order to pay fuel tax, then your duty to the Treasury was discharged with honour.

It appears not. Unsatisfied with controlling our lives with targets and tickboxes that are dislocated from everyday existence, Darling Brown is using taxation not only as a brake on our aspirations, but to punish the hubris of those who'd thought that the point of working hard was to spend what you'd earned. Even as the climate-change pantheon plunges from the heavens he replies to the misgivings of his own people: "don't you know these reforms are going to save 1.3 million tons of CO2 and increase the numbers of clean cars?"

I'm not saying there's anything wrong with a saloon or a hatchback (or even my bike), but people who sweat for a modest wage shouldn't have obstacle after obstacle thrown in their paths when they try to go for something a bit better, should they wish to do so. To tax law-abiding workers to distraction is merely to accentuate the earnings of the true guilty rich - drug-importers, people-traffickers and eco-socialists so far up their ivory towers you wonder if they remember how to tie their laces.

Meanwhile Barbacana, who's had a car for decades, tried my bike, and found he was a bit wobbly. So he's resolved to start taking the bus. I don't know how to tell him that the fares are going up.

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