Pasty tax protesters defy rain to send Chancellor a message
The driving rain failed to quell the buoyant spirits of hundreds of flag-waving campaigners who gathered en masse to march through a Cornish town yesterday in protest at the Government's controversial "pasty tax".
With black and white flags of St Piran hoisted aloft, more than 500 rain-soaked protestors made their feelings known as they marched through Falmouth against Chancellor George Osborne's plan to slap 20 per cent VAT on top of the cost of a hot pasty.
Led by Falmouth Marine Band, campaigners shrugged off the weather and marched through the town to Events Square to listen to a series of rousing speeches.
Demonstration organiser and comedian Edward Rowe, otherwise known as Kernow King, said: "We are here today for a very special reason – somebody north of Saltash wants to tax our pasties and it's wonderful to see so many people here to say no.
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"This weather is shocking – I don't think we could have picked a worse day but we are used to it being tough down here."
Maureen Fuller, deputy grand bard of the Cornish Gorsedh, said the humble pasty was a staple food and the "cornerstone" of Cornish life.
"Facing a 50p increase in price just isn't right. This will cost jobs, it's anti-Westcountry, unworkable and our message is hands off our pasties," she said.
Pasty maker Ann Muller, who runs a bakery on the Lizard peninsula, said: "Keeping a small business going through the winter isn't easy and we prudently keep prices down because of the recession. To see Westminister coming down to plunder our staple diet is unbelievable.
"My message to Mr Osborne is that 50p may not be much to you but it's a hell of a lot down here."
Cornwall councillor Alex Folkes described the pasty tax as "wrong on so many levels" and warned it would cost the economy millions in terms of lost of jobs and sales.
He said: "We are proud of our pasties and we want them to continue to be enjoyed by everybody and the pasty tax will put 20 per cent on the cost of the average pasty, so fewer people will buy them and that will mean less jobs.
"I am astounded and hugely gratified by the way this campaign has taken off."
Cries of "What do we want – pasties. How do we want them – hot and tax free" pulsed through the placard-waving crowd as they marched from The Moor to Events Square, some sporting pasty outfits, others in traditional Cornish kilts.
Cornwall councillor Loveday Jenkin, Mebyon Kernow's culture spokesperson, said: "Pasties are part of the culture and identity of Cornwall and Westminster doesn't seem to understand that. A lot of small, independent businesses will be hit by this tax and that's bad for our economy and bad for jobs."
The Treasury has said VAT is already charged on most hot food and adding it to pasties closes a "loophole".