Thursday, June 12, 2008

Informal notes from Britain

The past 10 days I’ve been in the Britain with my wife and granddaughter.

This is about my 45th trip to the U. K. during the past 30 or so years.

I’d guess my total time spent here amounts to more than two years.

With that as background, I offer the following informal “this and that” notes from Britain in no particular order of importance - - -

People here are fed up with taxation to a degree I’ve never seen before.

Taxes are often the first subject people mention; and it doesn’t take much to get them started.

I walked into an antique shop the other day and greeted the woman with “How are you today?”

“I’d be a lot better if they hadn’t started taxing my pension.”

“I’m sorry that happened.”

“Then you don’t want to hear what they’re planning for the road tax.” (That’s a tax a lot like a property tax in the States on your car. I’m assured by friends here the government can and does seize your car within two months of your failure to pay the road tax.)

“But have a look around if you like.”

Almost all of what a British motorist or lorry driver pays for petrol is taxes.

Many people mention that and add: “You in America are so lucky to have gas at $4.00 a gallon. We’d be happy to pay that.” ( I don’t know what the price per gallon is here, but I’ll find out and let you know. If you know, please let me know, with a link if possible.)

I can sum up what just about all Brits I’ve listened to have said and what I glean from the newspapers with this:

“We went along with tax increases based on promises of better health care, better education standards, better control of immigration and greater public safety.”

“We got the higher taxes, but nothing got better.”
You’d guess from what I’ve just said that PM Gordon Brown’s Labour government’s in trouble; and you’d be right.

Polls show Labour at its lowest point in decades; trailing the Conservatives by 15 points or more.

Since British general elections are much more about party preference than our national elections, Labour’s current poor poll showings are far more significant than would be similar Rep-Dem preference poll findings.

If you ask people here what the U. K. voter preference poll numbers mean, they’ll tell you: “Labour’s lost the country.”

I hear that not just from Tories and Lib Dems; Labourties say the same thing.

Enough of British politics for now.

How are folks here looking at the Yanks?

Well, for one thing, the Dem nomination race has been widely followed, with most people favoring Sen. Obama.

I said “widely” because I was readying to say most people here haven’t followed the nomination contest to the point they have anything like what you’d call “some depth of understanding”

Typically, Obama is wonderful because “he’s young,” “seems to want to listen,” and “really excites me, although I know he needs to do more than that.” Hillary Clinton had support here because “she’s a woman” (same as in the States), and “she seems to know what she wants, and that’s good in a leader.”

With Obama now the nominee, almost everyone I talk to wants him to win.

I’ll say more about why tomorrow.

Now about the weather.

Many of you know the Eastern U. S. has been sweltering.

So are people here asking if I blame global warming for that?


In fact, no one here’s brought up globel warming this trip.

That may be because many parts of England have just had one of their coldest and wettest Spring’s on record.

Final note - - -

With a few stinkers of the kind every country has excepted, I've find the British people extremely likable.

I wonder how they ever got the reputation of being standoffish.

They’re wonderful.


TombZ said...

A site for current UK gas prices:

You may enter your postal location to locate the lowest price nearby.

A chart at the site claims an average of 1.17 UK pounds per liter = $8.86 per US gallon. Yow!

A breakdown of UK petrol taxes may be found here:

The Brits need their own revolution.

I hope you and your family enjoy your trip!

Are there still any British beers served in the pubs? Britain seems eager to throw out it's native culture...

Anonymous said...


The unprecedented price that’s causing all this American heartache is $4 a gallon or in our currency, about 44 pence a litre. While it’s easy for us to chuckle or groan ironically and think, as we fill up with the same stuff at three times the price, that they don’t know how easy they’ve got it, all these things are relative.

If we take petrol, (and use all prices converted to UK pence per litre (ppl) for simplicity, along with a bit of rounding to avoid unnecessary precision and endless decimal places), the UK current average pump price is around 116ppl. 17p of that is VAT and just over 50p is duty, leaving a price before tax of about 50p per litre.

Anonymous said...

John -

Really can't figure why the Brits are complaining. After all, they're the ones who voted for Labor, and not once but twice since the Tories were voted out of power. Voters get the government they voted for.

Also, don't you think it strange that people who are fed up with Labor would think Obama would make a good President? Somehow they don't seem to be able to connectthe dots.

Jack in Silver Spring

Danvers said...


I cannot offer a UK price per gallon for gas, but when someone does, remember that a US gallon and an Imperial (British) gallon are not the same.

1 US Gallon = 0.8327 Imp Gallon

Hope this helps.

Anonymous said...

I am reminded of comments made by a British acquaintance on the subject of health care in the UK. He said the health plan on paper is quite good, and if it only worked like that it might be worth the outrageously high taxes we are forced to pay for it. The waiting time for heart surgery in the UK is now somewhere in the six month neighborhood; those with the money are more than willing to fly to the US and have their medical operations. Bottom line: sure, we have problems with our health care, but a national health care program like Britain's isn't the answer.
Tarheel Hawkeye

TombZ said...

Did I do something to offend you, or did I lose yesterday's comment on my own?

Once again into the breach...
Petrol Avg. Min. Max.
Unleaded: 117.6p 112.9p 129.9p

At the above average price, with 3.785 litres per US gallon and a British pound valued at $1.95, the total USD$ equivalent is $8.68 per US gallon.
As of 2007, tax is 67% of the price per litre, according to this page.

Drive on.

Anonymous said...

To TH via JnC -

Tarheel - don't you know that's how they save money? Make the queue long enough and put the sickest (and most expensive) patients at the end of the queue, and before you know it, they're all dead, and you've saved a ton of money.

Jack in Silver Spring