Prompted by his report on the non-collection of taxes (see my previous post), Richard Murphy is inviting ideas for a ‘tax pledge’ by the 2015 intake of UK MPs. I proposed that such a pledge begin with a brief preamble setting out what tax is for. My justification is as follows.
What we need to be assured of is not that the people we elect will follow particular policies, but that they will measure all plans, policy and legislation against the principles we wish people in public office to have. Specific policy ideas are easy to set aside once elected: in fact it’s highly probable they will be, given that policy, legislation is created and enacted through debate and amendment.
What we need to know is that the people we vote for will not set aside principles once elected.
The answer to the question, “What do you stand for?” is insufficient if it is something like “ending the cost-of-living crisis”, or “repealing the Health and Social Care Act”. As electors (and citizens) we should expect assurance that the person we elect will oppose anything that makes employment less secure or subverts a publicly funded, publicly delivered NHS: because we know they (and their party if they are not Independent) share with us convictions about the value of people, of human rights, and of what a state and an economy are for.