No “skin in the game”, no vote?

6 May

Ian Cowie of the Daily Telegraph wrote a post yesterday arguing for “a tax-based alternative to the Alternative Vote”.

Basically, this would involve limiting the franchise to those who pay at least £100 of income tax each year, while excluding those “large numbers of people who have no ‘skin in the game’ and who may even comprise the majority of voters in some metropolitan areas today”. Pensioners and mothers (even single mothers, Mr Cowie?) would retain the vote, however, which is nice of him.

Now I’m not remotely interested in discussing the merits of this worthless idea. Maybe Mr Cowie will claim that those objecting to him are “humourless lefties” who “can’t take a joke” – but the final couple of sentences suggest that he is deadly serious. Even if accepted as satirical, it’s a satire that rests on some unpleasantly dismissive attitudes: “no skin in the game” (says the comfortably well-off journalist of those who end up bearing the brunt of job losses and cuts), “everyone who gets out of bed in the morning to go to work”, and so on.

Mr Cowie’s proposal will, of course, never get anywhere near being adopted. But as Anna Hedge pointed out on Twitter, this is yet another example of how some on the political right are feeling emboldened to say things they would never have dared utter in the past 15 or 20 years.

And while there is no prospect of an income tax-based franchise becoming reality, such nakedly “class-war” proposals contribute to an atmosphere in which significant democratic reform becomes even less thinkable (let’s see how that “elected House of Lords” looks once the proposals are finally unveiled, eh?), public services are easily removed from democratic control to control by those with some “skin in the game” (see: free schools, GP commissioning), and the political concerns and expression of those “who may even comprise the majority of voters in some metropolitan areas today” are systematically delegitimised.

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3 Responses to “No “skin in the game”, no vote?”

  1. Philip Walker 6 May 2011 at 4:39 pm #

    Ah, personal finance editors. Almost invariably more right-wing than their publication at large, this pretty much forces Ian Cowie to be a bit of a loon, given that the Telegraph is arguably already beyond the pale in certain important respects. On the other hand, the same rule gives space for someone like Julian Knight, the Independent’s personal finance editor, who is in my view about the sanest commentator in the press. Wasted on the finance columns, I’m telling you, and the Independent’s general readership would no doubt be horrified to read some of his columns.

    (There is a serious point which Cowie’s totally loopy suggestion raises in my mind. In its most general terms, it is this: how do we stop democracy degenerating into majority abuse of minorities?)

  2. Philip Walker 6 May 2011 at 4:42 pm #

    Incidentally, one assumes that Cowie’s use of the phrase “modest proposal” is intentional. At least, an intentional get-out clause…

  3. John H 6 May 2011 at 7:23 pm #

    The latter, more like. I think his closing paragraph closes off the “satire” defence, though. “Hyperbole” maybe still available.

    As for the latter: written constitution? Human rights legislation? Neither of which is exactly popular with modern-day “Conservatives”. (Scare quotes because I quite genuinely fail to see how they can credibly claim the word.)

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