Wednesday, 25 April 2012

And That's Why I'm a Conservative

This piggybank represents perfectly the reason why I am a Conservative.  Just recently this piggybank had been absolutely chock-a-block full of copper coins. These have been counted and are now safely put away in a real bank. But it hasn't always been this way and the story goes like this. In 1990 My wife and I had just got married. Margaret Thatcher was the Prime Minister, John Major was the Chancellor and I bought this piggybank from Wigan market. Since 1990 the piggybank has been regularly emptied when times were hard and we needed, quite literally, every penny. On one occasion I remember being so hard up that we had no money other than the coppers we’d collected in this very piggybank so we emptied it then raised the sum total of just over £4 which was just enough to buy some milk bread and a few other essentials to tide us over. As we built our lives and our aspirations were becoming a reality, the piggybank was emptied less and less until it was just never emptied. I remember that grey rainy day in Wigan carrying the pot pig back to our 1st marital home, flat above a chip shop, thinking "wouldn't it be good if this was full of money right now". Over 20 years later, I now know what it feels like to have this piggybank full of money and it feels good! To be honest when the piggybank is full of copper coins there isn't as much cash as it feels, and believe me it's chuffing heavy. It's not the amount of money that is important here it's the fact that aspiration is real and can pay off. Aspiration is knowing that determination will pay off in the end. It’s often like 2 steps forward and one step back, just as this piggybank has had to be emptied on many occasions when times were hard but eventually, through grit and determination, you start to succeed more than you fail and the piggybank stops being raided and starts to fill. To me, the day that I went to my piggybank to drop in 2p coin and found I couldn't because there was no more room was a sign that my life had become a net success. Starting from less than nothing and building your life using your own efforts and energies is very much in tune with Conservative political thinking. The reward of hard work is filling of the piggybank and the safety net of a welfare state is being able to raid the piggybank every now and then. Raid it too much and you run out of money completely, then you’re in real trouble. The piggybank is very much still in use and already has a few coins in it. No doubt over the years it will have to be emptied as you can never tell what life holds but perhaps in 20 years the piggybank will be full again.

And that's why I am a Conservative.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Uncharitable Charity

Water for Kids

I don’t respond well to the hard sell. I was accosted in Leigh Town Centre today by ‘charity workers’ for a well known charity trying to persuade me to sign up a regular direct debit. I already give more than the national average to charity and I choose which charities I donate to. Whenever I give I could keep receipts and declare the donations to the tax man. It’s easy to do and I’d get that rare joy of getting money back from the HMRC. But I don’t, I always make sure that I sign over gift aid so that the tax relief, to which we are all entitled, goes to the charity. Gift aid is a way of making sure the charity gets even more money for their good work. It is most definitely not a way of giving money back to the giver. For large donors to even suggest they will reduce their charitable donations because they will no longer get a rebate from the exchequer for doing so is, well, uncharitable. If it isn’t clear now then it should be made clearer that there is not, and never will be, any limit on the amount anyone can donate to charity. There is not, and never will be, a tax imposed on charitable donations. But in these austere times the country can no longer afford for the largest donations to be made out of untaxed income. The Coalition must not give in to the populist call or the weakness of the Lib Dem component. Tough times require tough decisions and capping the relief on the largest donations to charity strikes me as not a tough decision but eminently sensible.

The picture? A charity very close to my heart. Water for Kids providing safe drinking water to the kids in developing countries who need it most. Donate  ..... and don't forget the gift aid!