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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As crime moves online, the police need the investment in technology to follow

Technology offers solutions, not just threats.

It’s perhaps inevitable that as the world becomes more digital, so does crime. This week Alison Saunders, director of public prosecutions, recognised that online crime is as serious as face-to-face crime. “Hate is hate,” Saunders wrote referring to internet abuse, and the police should protect people from it wherever they are. This will add demand to under-pressure police forces. And it is only the tip of the iceberg. 

Forty-seven per cent of crime involves an online element. Police recorded 30,000 instances of online stalking and harassment last year. People are 20 times more likely to be a victim of fraud than robbery, costing businesses an estimated £144bn a year. On a conservative estimate, 2,500 UK citizens use the anonymous dark web browser, Tor, for illegal purposes such as drug dealing, revenge porn and child sexual exploitation.

The police need new technology to meet demand, a Reform report published today finds. Some progress has been made in recent years. West Midlands Police uses an online portal for people to report incidents. Durham uses evidence-gathering software to collect social media information on suspects, and then instantly compile a report that can be shared with courts. Police have benefited from smartphones to share information, and body-worn cameras, which have reduced complaints against police by 93 per cent.

Yet, Theresa May’s 2016 remarks that police use “technology that lags woefully behind what they use as consumers” still stand. Officers interviewed for Reform’s research implored: “Give us the tools to do our job”.

Online evidence portals should be upgraded to accept CCTV footage. Apps should be developed to allow officers to learn about new digital threats, following the US army’s library of knowledge-sharing apps. Augmented-reality glasses are being used in the Netherlands to help officers identify evidence at digital crime scenes. Officers would save a trip back to the station if they could collect fingerprints on smartphones and statements on body-worn cameras.

New technology requires investment, but forces are reducing the resources put into IT as reserves have dried up. Durham plans to cut spend by 60 per cent between 2015-16 and 2019-20. The government should help fund equipment which can meet demand and return future productivity savings. If the Home Office invested the same as the Department of Health, another department pushing “transformative” technology, it would invest an extra £450m a year. This funding should come from administrative savings delivered through accelerating the Government’s automation agenda, which the think tank Reform has previously calculated would save Whitehall £2.6bn a year.

As crime moves online, police must follow. Saunders is right to point to the importance of meeting it. But technology offers solutions, not just threats. Installing the next generation of equipment will give police the tools to do their jobs, addressing online hate and more. 

Alexander Hitchcock is a senior researcher at reform