Could Richard Curtis have another hit with the Robin Hood tax?

Bill Nighy stars in short film to launch campaign for a tax on financial transactions.

 

Richard Curtis and Bill Nighy have made a new film, but it isn't a romance and it doesn't feature Hugh Grant.

The short film (above) takes as its topic a proposed banking tax -- previously known as the financial transaction tax, or the Tobin tax (after the economist who named it), but rebranded here as the altogether more snappy "Robin Hood tax".

Bill Nighy, a brilliantly shifty and unpleasant executive, cashes in on the public's suspicion of bankers as he tries to wave away the "very complex" proposal.

The film argues that a tax of just 0.05 per cent on global transactions between financial institutions (equating to five pence for every £1,000) would raise hundreds of billions of pounds to alleviate poverty and fund public services.

The campaign -- supported by a coalition of domestic and international charities and unions -- was launched today, although early on Tuesday morning, the phrase "Be part of the world's greatest bank job" was projected on to the Bank of England. Such innovative, guerrilla marketing tactics may well be an effective way of mobilising public support. At the very least, it informs people about an arcane tax law in an exciting and entertaining way.

There are arguments to be made for and against the tax (the Guardian summarises a few of these perspectives), but with Curtis onside, making use of YouTube, Facebook and celebrity endorsements, it will be interesting to see what impact, if any, the film has on public discourse, and even policy -- let's not forget that Gordon Brown endorsed the idea not so long ago.

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Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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Theresa May’s stage-managed election campaign keeps the public at bay

Jeremy Corbyn’s approach may be chaotic, but at least it’s more authentic.

The worst part about running an election campaign for a politician? Having to meet the general public. Those ordinary folk can be a tricky lot, with their lack of regard for being on-message, and their pesky real-life concerns.

But it looks like Theresa May has decided to avoid this inconvenience altogether during this snap general election campaign, as it turns out her visit to Leeds last night was so stage-managed that she barely had to face the public.

Accusations have been whizzing around online that at a campaign event at the Shine building in Leeds, the Prime Minister spoke to a room full of guests invited by the party, rather than local people or people who work in the building’s office space.

The Telegraph’s Chris Hope tweeted a picture of the room in which May was addressing her audience yesterday evening a little before 7pm. He pointed out that, being in Leeds, she was in “Labour territory”:

But a few locals who spied this picture online claimed that the audience did not look like who you’d expect to see congregated at Shine – a grade II-listed Victorian school that has been renovated into a community project housing office space and meeting rooms.

“Ask why she didn’t meet any of the people at the business who work in that beautiful building. Everyone there was an invite-only Tory,” tweeted Rik Kendell, a Leeds-based developer and designer who says he works in the Shine building. “She didn’t arrive until we’d all left for the day. Everyone in the building past 6pm was invite-only . . . They seemed to seek out the most clinical corner for their PR photos. Such a beautiful building to work in.”

Other tweeters also found the snapshot jarring:

Shine’s founders have pointed out that they didn’t host or invite Theresa May – rather the party hired out the space for a private event: “All visitors pay for meeting space in Shine and we do not seek out, bid for, or otherwise host any political parties,” wrote managing director Dawn O'Keefe. The guestlist was not down to Shine, but to the Tory party.

The audience consisted of journalists and around 150 Tory activists, according to the Guardian. This was instead of employees from the 16 offices housed in the building. I have asked the Conservative Party for clarification of who was in the audience and whether it was invite-only and am awaiting its response.

Jeremy Corbyn accused May of “hiding from the public”, and local Labour MP Richard Burgon commented that, “like a medieval monarch, she simply briefly relocated her travelling court of admirers to town and then moved on without so much as a nod to the people she considers to be her lowly subjects”.

But it doesn’t look like the Tories’ painstaking stage-management is a fool-proof plan. Having uniform audiences of the party faithful on the campaign trail seems to be confusing the Prime Minister somewhat. During a visit to a (rather sparsely populated) factory in Clay Cross, Derbyshire, yesterday, she appeared to forget where exactly on the campaign trail she was:

The management of Corbyn’s campaign has also resulted in gaffes – but for opposite reasons. A slightly more chaotic approach has led to him facing the wrong way, with his back to the cameras.

Corbyn’s blunder is born out of his instinct to address the crowd rather than the cameras – May’s problem is the other way round. Both, however, seem far more comfortable talking to the party faithful, even if they are venturing out of safe seat territory.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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