PETER HITCHENS: More taxes, Archbishop? Ask your right-on pals to pay first
I pray every day for Archbishop Justin Welby, though with no very great hope of success. Christians are supposed to pray for their enemies, and he seems to be one of those.
I will never forget the panic-stricken look on his face when I said a friendly hello to him at a Lambeth Palace reception, to which I had obviously been invited by mistake. I suspect – judging by his open dismay – that he would have preferred to have had Satan at his party. I left very soon afterwards.
And later I came to have a really low opinion of his abilities, and of his interest in justice, as I and others battled to get such justice for the truly great Bishop George Bell of Chichester, who died 60 years ago.
Under Archbishop Welby’s leadership, Bishop Bell was publicly denounced by his own Church as a paedophile after a miserable secret kangaroo court. The evidence against him was ancient, thin and uncorroborated, and no defence had even been heard. Yet, now that this process has been exposed as the unfair botch it was, the Archbishop still won’t accept he made a mistake.
Wealthy families should pay more tax to help the poor, Justin Welby (pictured) said this week
And his endorsement of last week’s wild Blairite demand for more taxes and a severe assault on our freedom to pass on our hard-earned life savings to our children, did nothing to improve my opinion.
Christians can be socialists or conservatives, or liberals in politics. Or they can be none of these things. It is their personal actions, not their views, that matter. It is absolutely not the task of the religious leader of England to take sides on political and economic quarrels of which he plainly knows little and understands less.
But does he understand the Gospels any better? In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ at no point says ‘Blessed are the Tax Collectors’. When he tells us to help the hungry, the sick and the homeless, he does not tell us to hand on the job to the State. He tells us to do it ourselves, not through the cold, impersonal agencies of PAYE and the Universal Credit system.
Governments are often very bad at spending money. I pay quite a bit of tax, and wouldn’t mind at all if it went (for example) on an NHS that was well-run, schools that I thought were good, or on a criminal justice system that I thought was effective. But I get none of these things.
And it’s not because the State has too little money that this rich country now has so many food banks.
It is because the state is so incompetent at helping those in real trouble. Charities, sustained by private donations and private hard work, often do the job much better.
Higher tax will not mean people give more to charity. It will mean they give less. Worse, if you threaten the freedom to inherit, you threaten private property itself. And if you threaten that, you threaten the whole basis of freedom. Without private property we all become slaves of the secular, anti-Christian state. How can that be a Christian desire?
Nobody is against tax as such. Most of us are in favour of other people paying more tax. But almost nobody is in favour of paying more himself, in practice.
Look into many tax avoidance schemes and you will generally find plenty of right-on leftist comedians and media figures, taking full advantage. And, though HM Revenue & Customs is always happy to accept voluntary extra contributions, for some reason these are rare.
The Archbishop, amusingly, issued his fatwa against inherited wealth and in favour of tax through the Institute for Public Policy Research. This leftist coven was set up to provide a fancy figleaf for New Labour’s wild debauch of spending and borrowing, which destroyed many pension funds and plunged the nation deep in debt.
But, oh, look, the IPPR, so keen on taxing others, has somehow qualified to be a registered charity. This status normally means not having to pay income or corporation tax, capital gains tax, or stamp duty. Gifts to registered charities are also usually free of the inheritance tax that Archbishop Welby wants to be so strictly applied to the rest of us. They are often spared all or most business rates on their premises, and can get special VAT treatment.
Quite why such outfits as the IPPR should escape the punitive taxes which are now putting so many small firms and shops out of business, I have no idea. Couldn’t the money be better spent on the poor? Perhaps the Archbishop could do something about it?
BBC’s squalid excuses for child killers
The over-praised BBC drama Mother’s Day seemed to me to have forgotten who actually murdered Johnathan Ball and Tim Parry in Warrington in 1993.
Well, I certainly remember: the IRA, whose apologists and supporters are now invited to the White House and Windsor Castle, planted high explosives in cast-iron litter bins in the heart of an English town where – as it happened – many Irish people lived. These cruel monsters made sure those fleeing the first bomb would run straight into the blast of the second.
Daniel Mays as Colin Parry and Anna Maxwell Martin as Wendy Parry in BBC’s Mother’s Day
The culprits have never been caught, and if they were, they would be almost immediately released under the nauseating terms of our surrender to the IRA. The drama, in my view, made far too much of stupid excuses issued by Republicans for this crime. It gave valuable airtime to fictional mouthpieces and excuse-makers for the IRA cause. It also greatly exaggerated a minor fire at the Irish club in Warrington to suggest it was six of one and half a dozen of the other.
No doubt Tim and Johnathan were not the first or only children to die in the Troubles. No doubt Loyalist bombs were just as savage. No doubt the British Army and the police were not without faults. But so what? The IRA men who coldly planted bombs outside a town centre branch of McDonald’s, set to go off at lunchtime on a Saturday, deliberately set out to kill and maim innocent people including children and did so, horribly. Nobody made them do it. There was no excuse for this. There never will be.
Nobody, least of all the BBC, should try to make one.
A moving message from the Cold War
If ever you are tempted to forget how lucky we are to live on our safe island, see the brilliant new Polish film Cold War, in which Joanna Kulig plays one of a pair of lovers whose lives – which in a free country would have been happy and contented – are utterly ruined by the Iron Curtain. There are no car chases, and there is mercifully little sex. But there is a lot of thought.
Joanna Kulig (pictured) plays one of a pair of lovers whose lives are ruined by the Iron Curtain
When I lived in crime-ridden Moscow, I had a solid steel front door. Such things were and are common there. After the recent incident in Bexley in South-East London, when a family out for a meal watched in amazement on a mobile phone (linked to their doorbell) as armed robbers kicked their front door off its hinges at 9pm, I wonder if the time has come to follow Moscow rules here. British houses are not made to withstand such attacks. We assume the law keeps us safe. But bad people are not afraid of the law now.
I am increasingly frightened by electric bicycles, actually rather fast, near-silent heavy motorbikes which are unregistered but can kill or maim. Are these ever-more-common things adequately regulated or controlled?
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