There are many shorthand measures used by newspapers to indicate size: Wales for geographical area, Wembley for crowds, swimming pools for volume, Nelson’s column for height, double-decker buses for dinosaurs (a rather specialised subset). There seems to also be one newspaper measure for showing just how big a problem a politician has got himself into: the Poll Tax.
Gordon Brown had fewer Poll Tax moments – perhaps he just had less time to stumble into them, although Polly Toynbee was worried that it might be the Tube.
For David Cameron, overwhelmingly it’s NHS reform, although Socialist Worker wants it to be tuition fees, Labour Uncut feels it could be the housing crisis and the TUC is warning about the whole package of cuts.
How young do you have to be before the Poll Tax ceases to be meaningful as something which happened during your political lifetime and becomes something that has to be set into context – in the same way that I had to have Suez explained when it was the standard measure for British humiliations in world affairs (I grew up in the 1970s, there were LOTS of those).
The Poll Tax riot was in 1990. Thousands of people who voted in the general election weren’t born when it kicked off. Does it mean anything to them or is it time for the hacks to stop being lazy?
Update: Just checked, following today’s Big Society-debacle headlines. No-one has actually called the BS David Cameron’s Poll Tax – yet. The WSJ has already described the Big Soc as “the silliest idea to have come out of the party since the Poll Tax” so it’s probably only a matter of time.