Opinion: ‘Cheap politics is not Labour’s game’

Councillor Shaz Nawaz, Labour Group leader on Peterborough City Council writes...

Sunday, 25th July 2021, 2:10 pm

I am an accountant by profession.

My responsibility to my clients is to help them arrange their financial affairs so that they pay the right amount of tax. If I didn’t do this,

I wouldn’t be an accountant for very long. I also am scrupulous about ensuring that there is an adherence to the letter and spirit of the law. Again, if I didn’t do this, I wouldn’t be an accountant for very long.

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It comes as no surprise to me that the Conservatives and their acolytes in the press are spinning this as a character flaw on my part. To them I would say: you have been in power in Westminster for over 10 years, here in Peterborough for two decades. You’ve had the chance to address a tax code which is mind-numbing in its complexity. You could have gone after multinational corporations. You could have ensured that those with the broadest shoulders carry the greatest burden.

You could have simplified and re-codified. You did not. My job is to help my clients navigate this minefield of your design. If I allowed them to tread recklessly and take steps in such a way that they detonated a large tax bill but not claim all the available reliefs, allowances, and exemptions, I would be accused of incompetence. Because I did not, I am charged with hypocrisy.

Astute observers of the political scene should realise that this isn’t serious: it’s called “playing the man, not the ball”. Through these columns, and through the reports in this newspaper, the people of Peterborough have a pretty clear idea about how our city is run. In general, we lurch from crisis to crisis. The coffers are empty. The city lacks long term planning and thinking. We have a massive gap in our budget created by Conservative maladministration. These are undeniable truths.

So, rather than state we have a plan to remedy these issues and build confidence in a progressive programme, it appears the Conservatives would rather tear down others. This kind of politics of personal destruction has led to the oft-heard jibe on the doorstep, “They’re all alike, they’re all in it together”. People are turned off democracy. Turnout falls; confidence and rigour in our democratic form of government declines. But given how well Conservatives tend to perform in a low-turnout environment, they may not care.

The Labour Group remains committed to making our city a better place to live; we have been setting out and will continue to set out policies to achieve this goal. If the Conservatives want to continue in the cheap politics of personal attacks, obviously, this is their choice.

However, there comes a point where the sneering grates on the ear.

There is a moment of realisation when such jibes will not ensure one road gets paved, one bin gets emptied, one child gets educated. At that point, the electorate will ask the question, “And so what do you do?” The present administration and its supporters will need something better than a resort to taunts. The people of Peterborough deserve and will demand better.