Like most people I sometimes feel that we live in a world where the absurd and the cruel are not only accepted but barely remarked upon. At a time when, as a result of the recent banking catastrophe, people all over the world are suffering the longest squeeze on living standards since before the second world war, when record numbers rely on food banks to survive, the financial sector is handing out billions in bonuses as though the economic crisis never happened.
This year the total bonus pool since the 2008 crash will break through the pounds 80bn barrier - around three and a half times the amount banks have paid in corporation tax and the bank levy. That's about pounds 1,250 for every man woman and child in the
These figures are alarming. Not because I have anything against bankers - who I am sure are no more or less agreeable than actors or biochemists - but because of the injustice that lies behind them. Having been bailed out to the tune of several trillion dollars worldwide, the current situation where huge sums of money remain untaxed is bewildering. It seems to me a fundamental question of fairness that all elements of society should be equally responsible for the protection of hospitals and the less advantaged everywhere.
Fortunately, there is a simple way to ensure this happens - a tiny tax on share, bond and derivative transactions carried out by banks and hedge funds known as a financial transaction tax or Robin Hood tax.
Eleven European countries - including
By doing so it would be turning down, in
The huge amounts of money that would be generated by such a tax could be distributed at each country's discretion, but the suggestion is that 50% of it should be used for domestic issues, such as the fact that 3.5 million children who live beneath the poverty line in the
Back in 2010, when the Robin Hood tax campaign was launched,
The campaign has come a long way since then. Polls have shown that a transaction tax has widespread support across the
A European tax could play a major part in helping other countries emulate the
Winning the argument on derivatives will be crucial - they will account for more than half of the estimated
While this government is likely to remain implacably opposed, it is worth remembering that the Lib Dems backed such a tax in their last manifesto. As for Labour, if
If the PM wants to do this without risking a Eurosceptic backlash then he could always extend the
The tax could also do something remarkable and transform the banking community from being villains to being popular. I know there are a long line of salaried experts who are philosophically opposed to the idea of aid who will declare me a well-meaning but profoundly mistaken amateur, or, I quote, "just another celebrity seeking publicity" (something I obviously need).
It is true I haven't suddenly become an expert on international affairs or economics, but I am briefed by expert observers whom I trust. The reason this idea won't go away is because it is such a brilliant and simple way of ensuring money goes to those who need it most.
Bill Nighy is an actor and campaigner for a tax on financial transactions
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