On the 1st of April it was announced in The Guardian that Jeremy Clarkson had embraced the drive for fossil fuel divestment, a far cry from his previous position as climate-change skeptic. Given the day that was in it, it was immediately apparent that such was a ‘classic’ April fools day gag.
It seems as though, however, newspapers were not given the memo that April fools day only lasts for 24hours. Over the past few weeks, I’ve noticed many headlines that are similarly out of whack. How about the Finance Act, one of the longest and most complex in history, being debated in Parliament for a mere matter of hours? That must surely have been a joke!
I can only assume that another tongue in cheek development is that both major political parties, the Tories and Labour, have made claims that they shall reign in some £5bn and £7.5bn in revenue respectively from clampdowns on tax avoidance and evasion, without substantiating the basis for believing that such will be possible.
To that end, it cannot have gone unnoticed that whacky headlines have encircled political pledges more generally in the run-up to the general election. Look at the Tories pledging to increase the (highly emotive) inheritance tax threshold on family homes to £1m (even though this will affect very few people) in a search for votes, but to be paid for by reducing tax relief on pension contributions. Look at Labour on the other hand and you will find a party (radically?) proposing a mansion tax (again affecting a mere handful of people) in search for votes, as opposed to introducing some real change on the highly regressive council tax system. Look at both major political parties making assurances that the NHS will be safeguarded without seriously tackling the fact that it will need at least some £8bn in funding per annum. The satirical effect of these headlines is only further heightened by the collective pledges not to increase certain taxes.
If it wasn’t already clear that all these headlines were spoofs, one might be worried about the current state of politics. Thankfully, however, the major political parties continue to eschew unconstructive partisan political one-upmanship on tax and finance. Now, as April fools day is long over, I wonder if the newspapers could please refrain from continuously publishing such ludicrous stories…