Imagine this. You’re earning between £50,000 and £80,000 a year. Not just that, but you’re a registered member of the Conservative Party. You switch on your radio this morning and you hear that Boris Johnson has promised that, if elected Tory leader, he will move the upper band of income tax from £50K to £80K. How would you react?
Would you (i) Sneer at this patent bribe and when it came time to cast your vote for leader, give it to someone else? (ii) Consider how much of a difference your increased income would make for you and your family, and maybe promise a few quid to the homeless before heading out to vote for Boris?
No, sorry. No good to plead that you are not a Conservative member now, never have been, never will be. This is a case of projected empathy: put yourself in the shoes of someone who would be affected by Boris’s offer.
If you declare indignantly that you would follow option (i) and avoid supporting Boris, then I think you’re deluding yourself. Nothing works like money. Money was the grease that oiled the groaning wheels of the peace process. There has been more than one movie based on the idea of a wife succumbing to the overtures of a very rich man who in return pays her $1 million. If you think poorly of any woman who would sell her sexual favours, what if the price was $100 million? As George Bernard Shaw said, we’re no longer disputing whether virtue is for sale, we’re merely disputing its price.
So Boris is a shrewd operator. With his present lead well clear of the Tory party leader pack, this will almost certainly cement him as favourite with the bookies.
Except, that is, some of the other candidates offer taxation relief all the way up to £100,000. Or £150,000. We’re no longer talking about whether votes can be bought: we’re merely haggling over the price.
And don’t think it’s only Tory party members who would sink to such depths. Deep inside our virtuous souls, there’s a little devil asking “How much did he offer?”