Where Lucifer gets his top-ups
There was much excitement yesterday among UKUncut members when the Tate launched a consultation on the potential use of apps for visitors and those interested in the gallery.
The interest, you see, was not that the Tate was looking at a potentially useful addition to their offer to visitors, but that the thing was sponsored by Vodafone.
Vodafone, as those who have been following these things will recall, are Evil. Very Evil, because they’ve only paid the amount of tax that they’ve been asked for. A year ago, they negotiated and settled with HMRC, after a ten year dispute over a grey area of tax law, to pay £1.25bn. UKUncut got it into their heads that the sum of £6bn should have been paid. Clearly Vodafone’s conduct is utterly immoral and UKUncut – whose supporters I am sure must make a habit of overpaying the taxman themselves so as not to be hypocrites – have been sniping at the company, much like one might open fire on a tank with a pea-shooter. Using mushy peas.
In terms of actual tactics they are targeting the company, I assume, because it is easier than (a) protesting to HMRC, who agreed with Vodafone the amount of tax due, (b) attacking the government, who ultimately set the rules, and (c) avoids having to face up to the complexity of the actual situation; i.e. that HMRC felt it better not to risk a lot more than £6bn by taking the matter through the tribunal and courts, since had they lost then other cases could have been seriously jeopardised.
So we come back to the Tate. Apart from trying childishly to sabotage the consultation by ensuring that much of the thread was polluted by deleted “off topic” comments, some made the point that had the likes of Vodafone “paid their taxes” then galleries, museums and the like wouldn’t be facing cuts in state funding.
The position I have on this is one irreconcilable with that of UKUncut, in that I do not think arts and culture should receive any state funding beyond, perhaps, that linked to school-age education. It is not an A&E service or defence. If these institutions are producing what their audience or customers want, then they should not need subsidy. If they are not, by catering for too small a minority interest or working for the producer rather than those actually footing the bill, then they do not deserve subsidy.
On a practical level, if the last year has demonstrated anything it is that no organisation can regard its finances as stable or sustainable as long as they are reliant on taxpayer handouts. If bodies like the Tate are taking sponsorship from Vodafone, then good for them. If they are looking to improve the quality of the visitor experience, good for them, for it will help justify the entrance fees that I feel they should be allowed to charge (something for another post one day).
UKUncut, on the other hand, would be happier that such institutions were suffocated, pushed hard against the bosom of the state. All the while they would reject Vodafone at al. giving directly to good causes, rather than feeding the beast from which they would prefer the nations cultural bodies to suckle their rations and remain reliant upon.