IT will go down in the annals of political disaster as the (Household) Charge of the Light(weight) Brigade.
Ironically, the Crimean War massacre of a similar name which was immortalised in verse by Alfred, Lord Tennyson has dark echoes of the Coalition’s tax attack.
History informs us the massive own goal was: “the result of a miscommunication in such a way that those in command attempted a much more difficult objective than intended — and as such the charge produced no decisive gains and resulted in very high casualties.”
The Cabinet Lightweight Brigade, led by an environment minister who used to be known as “Big Phil”, but after a spate of humiliations over sceptic tank levies and turf cutting climb-downs, now answers to the name “Cack-Handed Hogan”, really could not have made a bigger balls-up of this if they had tried.
The mass non-registration was perfectly designed to appeal to such a politically lazy society as austerity Ireland.
While Greece takes to the streets to wring ever better concessions out of Brussels, and a general strike in Spain — where the occupy movement that would briefly alarm Wall Street began — prompted the incoming Madrid government to smash the economically crippling deficit level demanded by the EU, the Irish are somewhat, well, pathetic when it comes to political protest.
Almost everyone seems to think the age of austerity is not being handled terribly well, and 70% of voters think the Government is, well, pretty crappy, according to the polls; but ask if they intend to do anything to express such anger and one is greeted with a deafening silence, and a mumble along the lines of: “Well, I would, but it’s a double episode of Corrie tonight and I want to find out who killed Frank....”
So, Not-So-Big-Now Phil has handed them the weapon of choice for a passive generation — inaction.
You, literally, do not need to do anything to register disgust by not registering for the tax.
Genius: protest by remote control — and people claim this Government never gives them what they want.
While it is perfectly right that local services should be paid for by a property tax (and water supply by metering), the sheer stupidity of imposing a flat rate regardless of whether you reside in a hovel or a Regency mansion is offensive — and completely unacceptable.
So far less than one in five people has bothered to register, and while it may not be the kind of mass civil disobedience that did so much to force the British out of India, it does put a huge strain on the Government’s crumbling credibility.
Of course the Taoiseach has registered — even though he does not really spend much time at home these days as he travels the globe lusting for glory. Just the past six weeks has seen him in London, Berlin, Rome, London (again), and the US no fewer than three times — and tomorrow he touches down in Shanghai.
But poor old Enda must be feeling a bit miffed that after all that shameless shamrock sucking-up to Barack Obama it was dreary David Cameron who got the special treat of being the first foreign leader to be given a ride on Air Force One when the Prez whisked him off to a basketball game in Ohio last week.
Considering that Enda was all over Barack at the White House, one wonders if Cameron and Kenny are not indeed the real life equivalents of the Little Britain character, Sebastian, who had an all enveloping crush on his political boss and did not bother trying to hide it from him.
Clearly, in a bid to show Enda who was enjoying the real bromance with Barack, Cameron even revealed Obama “tucked him up in bed” aboard Air Force One during his trip to America.
“On the way back from Ohio, it was about four o’clock in the morning UK time, so he said, ’David, why don’t you use my bed and put your feet up’.
“So I duly did and Barack went to the back of the plane and explained to my private secretary and the team.
“He said, ‘Don’t worry, the British Prime Minister is fine, I’ve just tucked him up in bed’. I don’t think that’s happened before,” Cameron gushed.
Let’s hope Enda’s flunkies broke the news to him nicely, but even still, the over-looked Taoiseach probably had the same reaction as one Tory MP who said: “It’s nauseating — I’m tempted to ask for a sick bag.”
But a very over-excited Cameron just could not let the matter lie, breathlessly informing Grazia magazine about what happened when he got back to wife Samantha: “I rolled into bed and asked Sam if she wanted to hear what we got up to on our guys’ night out.”
There are many, many reasons to really dislike David Cameron, but I think the above paragraph would still be very high on the list.
At least with Enda it remains a love that dare not speak its name.
Though Kenny must have been very jealous when Barack decided to have his St Paddy’s Day pint with cousin eight times removed Henry Healy from Offaly and not the Taoiseach — who was shunted off to Chicago because Obama did not want to see him until three days later.
But at least Henry managed to fill the president in on the household charge and how everyone back home either hated it, or was totally confused about how they were supposed to pay it.
As Alfred, Lord Tennyson, might have put it:
“Forward, the Lightweight Brigade!’
“Was there a man dismay’d?
“Some one had blunder’d:
“Apathy to right of them,
“Apathy to left of them,
“Apathy in front of them,
“Boldly they rode into the mouth of Hell,
“While horse and Big Phil fell,
“O look at their glory fade,
“O the wild household charge they made!
“All the world wonder’d.
who would honour the charge they made!
“Who would honour the Lightweight Brigade?”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved