Johann Hari’s article in The Nation on How to Build a Progressive Tea Party is one of the more exciting and inspiring pieces of news I’ve read recently. Hari recounts how a group of Twitter-linked citizens outraged by David Cameron’s £7 billion cuts to social programs when a single company, cellphone giant Vodafone, was allowed to get away without paying £6 billion in British taxes, organized to shut down Vodafone stores across the country.
All the cuts in housing subsidies, driving all those people out of their homes [200,000 in London alone, apparently], are part of a package of cuts to the poor, adding up to £7 billion. Yet the magazine Private Eye reported that one company alone—Vodafone, one of Britain’s leading cellphone firms—owed an outstanding bill of £6 billion to the British taxpayers. According to Private Eye, Vodaphone had been refusing to pay for years, claiming that a crucial part of its business ran through a post office box in ultra-low-tax Luxembourg. The last Labour government, for all its many flaws, had insisted it pay up. But when the Conservatives came to power, David Hartnett, head of the British equivalent of the Internal Revenue Service, apologized to rich people for being “too black and white about the law.” Soon after, Vodafone’s bill was reported to be largely canceled, with just over £1 billion paid in the end.