The TaxPayers’ Alliance (TPA) was launched by Matthew Elliott and Andrew Allum in early 2004 to speak for ordinary taxpayers fed up with government waste, increasing taxation, and a lack of transparency in all levels of government. No party was standing up for taxpayers and nearly all politicians were committed to bigger government, higher spending and secretive deals behind closed doors.
The TPA sought to challenge this status quo. The United States, Germany, France and Italy all had groups dedicated to defending taxpayers against new taxes, exposing waste and putting forward the case for spending restraint. The TPA was set up to ensure that British taxpayers were no longer ignored by politicians.
The importance of our message was recognised at an early stage. In 2006 we won the ConservativeHome ‘One to Watch’ award, and the Bumper Book of Government Waste was given the Atlas Sir Antony Fisher Memorial Award in 2007. In December 2007, the TPA won the Stockholm Network’s prestigious Golden Umbrella Award for Innovation and in 2008 was named ‘Pressure Group of the Year’ by the readers of Iain Dale’s Diary. In 2010, the TPA was awarded the Atlas Templeton Freedom Award for pioneering work on public sector fiscal transparency.
In November 2013, we won two more prestigious honours. Public Affairs News recognised the success of MashBeerTax with their “Best In-House Campaign of the Year” award. On the same evening, the Atlas Network in America announced that a distinguished panel of judges – including Arthur Brooks from the American Enterprise Institute and author Johan Norberg – had awarded the TPA the Templeton Freedom Award for the 2020 Tax Commission’s final report The Single Income Tax.
Announcing the award, Atlas CEO Brad Lips said that the “TaxPayers’ Alliance has become such a force of nature in a relatively short amount of time. From impeccable research to clear messaging, they've really raised the bar for think tanks.”
The financial crisis in 2008-9 focused minds on how government was spending taxpayers’ money. Politicians were forced to face the consequences of years of unrestrained public spending and unsustainable levels of debt. Many of the policies we recommended were implemented, including a public sector pay freeze, the abolition of many quangos, an end to local government sponsored lobbying, and extensive welfare reform. We ensured that spending decisions were transparent and that taxpayers were not unfairly forced to bear the consequences of politicians’ mistakes.
Another important moment for the campaign came when the MPs’ expenses scandal broke in 2009. Rapacious politicians were binging on taxpayers’ money when they thought no one was looking. We were vocal in uncovering these outrages and calling for both reform of MPs expenses and prosecution of politicians guilty of committing criminal offences. The TPA’s message that taxpayers’ money was being wasted, that taxpayers should know how their money was being spent, and that politicians were ignoring taxpayers’ wishes became ever-more significant.
A new model of award-winning campaigning
Although still a relatively young campaign, the TPA has steadily gained strength and influence. With over 65,000 grassroots supporters, we have exposed public sector waste and unsustainable spending across the country. In 2010 we launched the Debt Clock, which travelled around the UK to publicise how soaring public debt will burden future generations with an unenviable inheritance. In 2011, we brought together activists and supporters at the Rally Against Debt to highlight the necessity of public spending cuts. We have consistently stood against rising taxes and government waste.
From September 2010 to May 2011, Matthew Elliott took a sabbatical from the TPA to lead the NO to AV campaign in the nationwide referendum on changing Britain’s electoral system. The NO campaign won by a margin of over two to one, defeating electoral reform by 67.9% to 32.1%. Following the result, one commentator said: ‘The campaign provides a new model of how campaigns should be fought. Elliott ignored the talking heads and ran a campaign that chimed with voters, not the metropolitan elite.’
Transparency has always been at the heart of our campaign. We are a leading proponent of Google government and have argued that taxpayers have a right to know how their money is being spent. Our pressure on behalf of taxpayers has ensured that all levels of government must disclose information about public sector pay and spending. All parties are now committed to public sector transparency and the TPA has helped win that battle.
Britain’s tax system still needs to be reformed. The UK has a complicated and opaque tax code, ordinary taxpayers face increasingly high and unfair taxes, and politicians are failing to implement policies that would kick-start economic growth. The TPA will continue to press for fundamental reform, using the 2020 Tax Commission as a blueprint.
But lower taxes will only be possible if we reduce spending. Politicians spend almost half of our national income and far too much is wasted.
We need to keep up a sustained War on Waste.