Today, the TaxPayers' Alliance was asked by a reporter with a blog called 'Open Democracy', about reports of a fortnightly meeting, alleging coordination between groups with similar (and different) agendas.
We responded to the reporter in full, but as we cannot be certain that our response will be printed in its entirety, we have published it below in the interests of openness.
If you are interested in anything you read below, please feel free to get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks for getting in touch and asking for our response, which seems to have come after you have already Tweeted about this topic with certainty yesterday.
We do not meet fortnightly. That is incorrect.
30-40 people – sometimes. We often have a lot more people than this – sometimes over 100. Do you think it is a reasonable objective of a meeting to have over 100 people saying exactly the same thing to the media? It may seem strange to you, but attendees have their own views about all manner of subjects.
The meeting is an opportunity for people to let others know what research they are working on; what public events they are holding – which is useful information to avoid diary clashes, as I’m sure you can understand; and to hear from interesting speakers from the worlds of politics and the media (shocker, given that we work in the worlds of politics and the media).
The gracious Tweet of Chris Skidmore MP, which you reference, was very polite and we were glad he was able to come and speak to the meeting, given his new role chairing a policy forum. As it happens, he received a tough time from many in the audience who disagreed about certain policies – but, as ever in the meeting, this was done politely and in good faith. Labour policy announcements are discussed, as you say – but so are Conservative policy announcements. Indeed, regular attendees have held membership cards for the Labour Party, the Lib Dems, UKIP and the Conservatives.
On Brexit; attendees disagree on Brexit. Opinion spans from those who worked for the Britain Stronger in Europe campaign, through to believing in EEA membership, through to backing the Chequers proposal, through to leaving on WTO terms. I work in communications, but I don’t purport to be skilled enough to bring together all of these views under one message. Perhaps you could help, if you have any ideas?
Indeed, you claim: “A key strand is coordinating media messages.”
This is also incorrect and really quite absurd if you paused to think about it for even a minute. There are representatives from many organisations – and individuals attending in their own interest – and there are lots of different views in the room.
For example, the Adam Smith Institute have a long-standing view that we should relax immigration laws – indeed, they often write about open borders. Migration Watch take a different view. Do you think it would be remotely possible for these two groups to coordinate shared media messaging? Similarly, representatives from the Global Warming Policy Foundation and Bright Blue also occasionally attend. Again, you cannot seriously believe that these two different groups would be keen to come to agreed lines on the issue of climate change and subsidising certain forms of energy provision.
Interestingly (and again, this may be a shock to those who think attendees lack independent thought) some people disagree with the TPA on how the tax system should look. Lots of people on the free-market side of the debate prefer taxing consumption over income; some are interested in the idea of a land value tax. That’s what makes these meetings so interesting and enlightening.
Also, to note: “News outlets, like yourself” - we are not a news outlet. We are a campaign group that proudly makes the case for lower, simpler taxes and seeks to highlight wasteful spending.
P.S. I fear you may not print this response in full, so I shall be posting it, in full, on the TPA website in due course. Who knows – hopefully we may find more people who would like to discuss, in good faith, free-market ideas and how they can help the country’s, and the world’s, poorest.