Wednesday, 22 September 2010


In a way, I find the Express quite endearing. It's kind of like a children's version of the Daily Mail. I like to imagine that its writers sit on the floor in front of little fun plastic desks, copying Press Association articles out using massive crayons, tongues sticking out of the side of their mouths as they concentrate really hard on every letter.


Today's front page seems to bear this out. It comes across like an angry, stamping toddler, complaining loudly that he doesn't get enough pocket money to buy sweets. It's not fair, Kevin's parents give him twice as much and he's got a Wii!

It's really quite a staggering front page, isn't it? Even after you get over the initial confusion of thinking that Michael Douglas has been appointed The Taxman and isn't too happy about it, you're confronted with something quite bizarre. The taxman wants ALL our wages? This 100% income tax idea seems a bold step, particularly from a Conservative government. Labour, yeah, that's the sort of mad communist thing they'd do, but Cameron's Tories? Has Comrade Vince Cable warped them with his Marxist hectoring?

Of course, the story, as it turns out, is almost breathtakingly mundane. The coalition Government made a lot of noise about how overcomplicated the tax system was, so it's outlining a bunch of proposals to make it simpler. One of them is the possibility that maybe, at some time in the future, if the idea gets through Parliment, they might change the system so that HMRC makes its deductions itself, rather than having employers make the deductions on its behalf and then sending the money to the Government.

The Express is furious about this though. The idea that the money would technically go to the Government first seems to anger them to a frankly baffling degree. The article begins:
THE taxman could soon be getting his hands on all our hard-earned gross pay before we see it, it was revealed yesterday.
BEFORE WE EVEN SEE IT! Even though we don't get to see the money anyway because it's all deducted by our employers first! OUR HARD-EARNED GROSS PAY!
The taxman could then deduct income tax, national insurance and any student loan payments – before money is paid into our bank accounts like a parent doling out pocket money.
The thing about this, though, is that this already happens, but it's employers who do it instead of The Taxman. Does this mean our employers are effectively our parents? Is the head of monthly payroll my mum? I haven't been getting her anything for Christmas. And hey, look who it is:
Emma Boon, Campaign Manager of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “After recently telling six million people they’ve been paying the wrong income tax for the past two years, there’s no way we should reward HMRC for failure by giving them more power and responsibility.
Aside from a fact this is only a proposal and will most likely never come anywhere near being implemented, that argument doesn't even make sense, given that one of the reasons people paid the wrong tax was because it was left to employers to determine what tax people should be paying. But then I suppose it's the TaxPayers' Alliance's job to be angry about everything involving tax, all the time.

Now, I'm sure there are loads of potential issues with this proposal. It may be unworkable or unwise. Lord knows I don't particularly want to defend this Government. But if you're going to make a big deal about creating an Office of Tax Simplification, as they did, then it kind of behooves you to at least consider all the possible ways of reforming the system. Yes, even if one method makes you feel like you're being given "pocket money"! It wouldn't be so grating if the Express had come up with some reasonable, adult reasons for complaining, but this? This is just throwing toys out of the pram.

Thursday, 9 September 2010


Another day, another angry Express headline about how we've got too many foreigners. In BRITAIN NOW HOME TO 4 MILLION IMMIGRANTS, the Express tells us:
MORE than four million foreign nationals now live in Britain – nearly seven per cent of the population, according to the latest official statistics.
Four million? That's, like, millions! These figures do at least appear to be accurate for once, as they're taken from this official Eurostat PDF. However, when I look at it with my non-Express hat on, I'm struck by how tediously average our number of foreign nationals is.

First, though, a neat little bit of that customary disingenuity we've come to expect;
The UK is one of the most sought after destinations in Europe for immigrants. Only Germany and Spain have a larger number of foreign citizens.
That implies that we're third on the list, but as anyone who's ever gently brushed past a bit of statistical analysis on a crowded train will tell you, absolute figures like that don't mean shit. The UK has a relatively large population compared to a lot of other European countries, so the only really relevant statistic is one which expresses this as a percentage of total population.

Of course, looking at the Eurostat figures, you soon realise why the Express hasn't made much of a big song and dance about the percentage of people in the UK who are foreign nationals; the average across the 27 EU member states is 6.4%. The UK figure is 6.6%. A shocking difference, I'm sure you'll agree. Germany and Spain, it transpires, not only have more foreign nationals in terms of absolute numbers, but a significantly higher percentage than us (8.8% for Germany, 12.3% for Spain).

Here, for perspective, is a list of all the countries in the EU that have more foreign nationals per capita than we do: Belgium, Germany, Estonia, Ireland, Greece, Spain, Cyprus, Latvia, Luxembourg and Austria. Italy has 6.5%, so is only very slightly behind. The figures show that the UK has a very slightly above average number of foreign nationals. Given the UK's relative prosperity and how widely spoken our language is, you may actually be surprised by how close to that EU average we are.

The Express though, would rather draw our attention to the fact that poorer countries in the far-flung reaches of Eastern Europe have unsurprisingly low figures;
In contrast, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and Slovakia have less than one per cent of their populations made up of foreign nationals.
So, those are the facts. But what does the Express want us to think?
Yesterday Labour’s shambolic immigration policy was blamed for opening the floodgates.

And critics said the official figures for UK immigrants had been “wildly underestimated”.
Hmm, who blamed Labour? Who called it "shambolic" (a strangely emotive choice of word for a supposedly factual piece, as is "floodgates")? You're probably thinking "Well, either Sir Andrew Green, the entirely unbiased Migrationwatch guy, or unstoppable quote machine Philip Davies MP!". But on this occasion, you'd be strangely wrong! I can only assume that those two are on holiday, or that they've run their phone batteries into oblivion, because they are conspicuous by their absence.

Instead, the Express turns to another non-partisan, fully-qualified, expert voice of reason to speculate on mysterious Immigrants We Know Nothing About:
Last night UKIP party chairman Paul Nuttall said: “Of course Britain is a place where people want to come and live and I would say this is a massive underestimate. The figures are questionable because we do not control our borders.”

So there you have it; Britain has FOUR MILLION foreigners here! But it's almost definitely probably A LOT HIGHER AND MORE SHOCKING than that. In fact, it could be as high as INFINITY because under this Labour SHAMBLES there's a distinct lack of surface-to-immigrant missile silos defending our borders. Literally ANYONE could be here! There could be HUNDREDS of immigrants IN YOUR LOFT or something. Have you checked? One of them might be BIN LADEN! While you're at it, check your passport/speak to your mum. It could be that YOU are a foreigner! It wouldn't surprise me, bloody Labour.