Today in the House of Commons, Simon Kirby, MP for Brighton Kemptown, sought a debate on what he describes as Labour’s attempt to bring in a tourist tax in Brighton. It’s a theme he has warmed to over the last few weeks, even writing to Ed Miliband about it.
There’s just one small problem. No such proposal exists.
Certainly not from Labour, in any event. True, at least one Green Councillor and blogger has raised the prospect of a levy on large hotels in the city to the benefit of smaller businesses, and has separately advocated higher bus fares for visitors to the city. But these are the views of a councillor that even the local party chair describes as a “maverick” and there’s no suggestion that this is party policy.
But from Labour; not a syllable, other than comments from Sadiq Khan MP that such a tax might be appropriate in London. Not Brighton. But this appears to be the peg on which Kirby is hanging this story.
So why is he flogging this one? The obvious view is that we’re less than two years from an election and that Kirby is sitting on a majority of a little over 1300. But this is about more than that; it’s about a political methodology of which Tories have become masters – that of inventing plausible-sounding political narratives completely unsupported by empirical evidence, but get repeated so often that they become accepted as truth. Examples include the suggestion that Labour maxed the nation’s credit card (economically illiterate as well as untrue), that cutting public expenditure encourages business confidence, that there are families where three successive generations have never worked, that there are households receiving more than £100,000 per year in benefits, that the health and safety culture was responsible for the 2011 riots. I’ve blogged before about the systematic dishonesty that followed Cameron’s reaction to those riots; two years down the road from that, as the economy has deteriorated further, real incomes have continued to fall and the prices of the essentials of life continue to soar, the tactic is renewed.
It’s fundamentally a diversion – a way of distracting attention from the economic and social realities of Condem Britain, with living standards in freefall. But it’s more than that; a clumsy attempt to forge a political narrative that is wholly cleansed of inconvenient fact; a narrative based on aspiration and ideology rather than reality.
It’s the politics of dishonesty, and the politics of fear. It suggests that, just now, Simon Kirby is a very frightened man indeed.