Rich man's rebellion borne by the poor

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The Independent Online
I USUALLY greatly admire Neal Ascherson's perceptive and sensitive articles. I, too, abominate the poll tax, but to pay it is a legal obligation and I cannot pick and choose the laws I decide to obey.

If Mr Ascherson's view ('Why I'm proud, and glad, that I broke the law', 26 July) was generally accepted, we would have, not society, but anarchy. Much legislation, similar to that enacting the poll tax, creates a clash between a citizen's honest principles and the law: Sikhs and the wearing of crash helments is one.

All Mr Ascherson did by non- payment was to ensure a difficult time for his local authority (which may well not have supported the poll tax). Unless he believes that the United Kingdom is returning to 18th-century government of 'oligarchy tempered by riot', citizens must obey the law even though they detest it. If he does not believe this, he can use only legitimate pressures.

Many people voted for the government that introduced the poll tax; of course, such voters were a minority, but a large one. Perhaps the policy can be made more representative of its citizens only by revolution. Stand in the front line, Mr Ascherson; I will cut your sandwiches.

M W Evans

Inzievar, Fife

THE criteria to justify principled civil disobedience - vital to avoid the anarchy that would ensue if every perceived legislative unfairness sufficed - are not considered by Mr Ascherson, who nonetheless invokes with odd glee the plight of the already poor, suffering attachment orders by councils desperately trying to make ends meet. The other corollary is reduction in services. It appears that others pay the price of the campaigners' principles. Mr Ascherson should explain why.

In mid-article, he derides a politician's view that the rioting in Trafalgar Square had nothing to do with the repeal of the poll tax. By the end, we're told that the 'invitation to stay out of politics and riot instead' must be rejected. Either he has flatly contradicted himself, or is employing some Jesuitical argument that riots can be classified by political correctness and thus acceptability. Left- wing causes can only be discredited by such woolly thinking.

C J A Jones

Henbury, Bristol

WE ARE two old-age pensioners. We are each now paying pounds 100 extra each on poll tax because of people like Neal Ascherson.

C G Hodgart

Barr, Ayrshire