Michael Caine: 'Self-Preservation Society' or 'Big Society' ?

By Jonathan Bartley
April 8, 2010

The Tories brought out Michael Caine to their press conference this morning alongside David Cameron, which raises serious questions about the extent to which they believe 'we are all in this together'.

What message does this send? As well as showing how willing some parties are to embrace the cult of celebrity, it also shows how Cameron (and Caine) are reluctant to tackle the issue of growing inequality. This seems to be more about the 'Self-Preservation Society' than the 'Big Society'.

It is little wonder that no one would be drawn on whether Caine is himself backing the Tories or not. Caine’s central political message recently has been that he would leave the UK if taxes got any higher (if the higher rate went from 50 to 51 per cent). He is worth an estimated £45 million.

Caine left Britain in the 1970s, citing the tax levied on top earners by the Labour government, but returned to Britain several years later when taxes were lowered.

His appearance at the press conference was overshadowed in the broadcast media by coverage of the arms reduction treaty which was being signed at the time in Prague - which rather puts things in perspective. But at the Tory event, he talked about his support for Cameron’s new ‘National Citizen Service’ policy for young people. This is of course, an important issue.

Caine said that he was “a representative of all those youngsters who have been forgotten”. He cited his background growing up in the Elephant and Castle as evidence. This is where he came from. But in what respect does he represent such people now?

Caine may be well intentioned, but we should also take into account what he said recently about Cameron: “I don't know what Cameron's going to do, but in the end you vote out of desperation".

It smacks of someone keen to help, but not perhaps willing to be part of the need to tackle growing inequality in the UK, which is at the root of many of the problems that the young face.

There are some other questions to ask about Caine's presence too:

Even the Tories are saying that they will increase National Insurance for high income earners like Michael Caine. Will Caine now go or will he stick around? Does he really believe "we are all in this together"?

Does he accept that inequality is at the heart of many of the problems that young people face?

Where will Caine go? Taxes are going up across the developed world. He has said he will go back to the US, where just two days ago it was made clear this is where taxes there are probably heading (HT to Christian Defoe @doctorcdf )

Where does this leave the Tory party’s emphasis on ‘patriotism’ if they are bringing someone out to express support who is so willing to desert the country - and the poor who would benefit from his taxes?

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