Tory Fucknut Watch #1 – Steve Baker

In which alternate reality do the Tory Party find their election candidates?

Seriously.. this morning I’ve accidentally run across the website of Steve Baker MP (Wycombe), one of the new intake of Tories elected in 2010.

Steve, if I can be so familiar as to call him by his first name, has run across what he thinks is a ‘good little story‘ on the Money Marketing website, which he presents as follows:

There’s a couple of odd things about this story one of which quickly becomes apparent when you follow the link to the Money Marketing website, where you find the story presented as follows:

A Conservative MP says recent letters from HM Revenue & Customs demanding people pay up or face having their possessions auctioned is an example of behavioural psychology now being employed by the Government.

Conservative MP for Wycombe Steve Baker says the “menacing” letter sent to a woman running a small business in his constituency tried “to humiliate and intimidate” her into paying £130.

So, Steve’s basically trying to self-fellate but not to make it too obvious to his readers/constituents, which is a little strange given that most MPs tend to take a much more direct ‘look at me, I’m in the media’ approach to flagging up their own press releases.

The other odd thing is his claim that HMRC are now using sinister Jedi mind tricks to get people to cough up their taxes and he even has an HMRC tax demand letter to prove it

Dear Sir/Madam

To avoid extra tax costs, please pay £xxxx.xx

Since I last wrote to you, most of those still owing tax have paid, making their contribution to the vital services we all depend on.

We still haven’t received your tax payment, and my team are now focussing attention on the rapidly reducing number of people like you who have yet to pay. Not paying your tax on time has serious consequences. We must collect this tax from you to pay for the hospitals and schools we all rely on. We will do that by taking your possessions and auctioning them publically [sic]. We don’t like doing this because people have told us it is embarrassing for them and it will cost you so much more to pay this way. For instance, if your car is worth several thousand pounds, it might sell for only a few hundred pounds at auction, a flat screen TV costing £2,000 would typically sell for about £200 – £300, and an £800 laptop would sell for about £100.

To avoid this, please call one of my team on the number at the top of this letter to pay by debit or credit card. You can also get information about how to pay online or by other payment methods at www.hmrc.gov.uk/payinghmrc. Or you can send a cheque with your printed payslip to HMRC, Bradford, BD98 1YY.

Some people who have a problem paying their tax bury their head in the sand. In fact, many people find that speaking to us helps.

[etc]

If that’s an example of HMRC trying to use behavioural psychology then they really need to hire themselves a new behavioural psychologist, and preferably one with some sort of qualification in the field.

‘Good cop, bad cop’ debt collection letters which mix grovelling entreaties with threats to send the bailiffs round, like this one, are ten-a-penny and have been for years. They exist because debt collection can be a costly business, particularly if you’re up against a debtor who knows their legal rights and understands perfectly well that, with very few exceptions (mainly VAT-related), bailiffs don’t have a legal right to force entry into a property and remove goods for auction, even with a court order, unless you voluntarily give them access to your property when they turn up on your doorstep, chasing your debt. And even if bailiff’s do get their foot in the door, more often the not what little they can manage to seize and auction off will not be enough to cover the outstanding debt – in many case, it won’t even cover the bailiff’s fees.

Like many of my generation, I learned how to the play the game with bailiffs back in the days of the poll tax as both a refusnik and an activist in a local anti-poll tax union. Since those heady days of public defiance my day job(s) have occasionally brought me into contact with people who’ve been struggling with personal debt problems and who, as a result, have found themselves on the receiving end of the not so tender ministrations of bailiffs and other debt collectors. It’s safe to say that I’ve seen just about every bullshit bailiff trick in the book from asking to use the toilet and waving their job sheet under the nose of the debtor while falsely claim that its a court warrant, through claiming they’d be back in hour with a van, two coppers and a locksmith, right up to one enterprising bailiff who picked a parked car at random from the street outside a debtor’s property and served the debtor with papers claiming that it would be towed away and sold at auction if the debtor didn’t cough up the cash in seven days. That last gambit fell a bit flat as the debtor didn’t own a car or even hold a driver’s licence, but to give the bailiff his due for persistence, he did turn up a week later to demand that the debtor turn over his non-existence log book.

HMRC are doing nothing more than playing catch-up with prevailing industry practice in the private debt collection sector, even if they have an extra emotional blackmail card to play – the reference to taxes paying for schools and hospitals – that’s not available to their private sector counterparts.

The other noticeable omission from Steve’s own fluff-piece is his comment that:

“It is a hell of a tone to take. The assumption is you are a wrong ’un, so here is the full weight of the harshest letter we can send you.”

Which HMRC countered by pointing out that:

“…the letter is the third in a series of three and is only sent if the recipient does not respond to the first two.”

In which case, the assumption seems to be that you’ve not paid your tax bill, despite having had two previous reminders, so you still owe us money that we’re legally obliged to try and collect. What the fuck are HMRC supposed to do in that situation? Write to the debtor and politely inform them that because they haven’t responded to the any previous tax demands the Treasury has decided that it not worth bothering with any more and will simply right the debt off.

Who does Steve think that HMRC are writing these letters to…? Vodaphone?

Yes, as you might well have guessed, we have yet another Tory fucknut on our hands, as confirmed by Steve’s wikipedia entry which places him firmly as a fully paid-up member of Continuity IDS before going on to add that he’s been nominated for newcomer of the year at Con Home by Harry Phibbs, Tory Councillor, destroyer of the Federation of Conservative Students, and the only Muppet that Jim Henson ever threw away for looking too disturbing for prime-time television.