The issue that really matters

It’s good to know that in these turbulent economic times, the coalition government is addressing the issues that really matter. Namely, hiking VAT on boob jobs and facelifts. Aside from the fact that Anne Robinson will need a pay rise, what effect will this have on the celebrities that we all take for granted in their botoxed state?

Guidelines set out in 2007 didn’t make it clear whether VAT had to be paid on invasive surgery. Top tax accountants Ernst & Young told their cosmetic surgery clients that they needn’t pay VAT for their services. The new proposals make the guidelines watertight, only exempting the tax if it is for purely medical reasons.

I’m no expert on family finance but I do know that if an average boob job costs £5,000 and you can happily tip up at the surgeons waving a cheque for that amount, then you can also pay the tax on top of it. Such surgery is always defended on the basis of allowing women to feel confident and boost their self-esteem. Yet only the rich can afford it. I doubt there are many women working in a poorly-paid job, raising two kids alone, while struggling to pay bills, who suddenly decide that what they need is bosoms the size of watermelons and all their problems will be solved.

Sky News anchor Kay Burley has come out against the proposals. So has Imogen Thomas, who had a breast enlargement operation. How far removed are these people from the real world? Prams are charged at 20% VAT. Children’s car chairs are charged at 5%. But Imogen Thomas wants larger tits, so you can all go and fornicate merrily with yourselves.

The Daily Express reported that “Plans to boost public funds by slapping a ‘boob tax’ on cosmetic surgery have sparked a backlash among plastic surgeons and patients”. Really! Patients would rather not pay a fifth more for their tummy tuck? Hold the front page! Oh, The Express already has. What a pathetic non-story, trying to create outrage when it is demonstrably non-existent. It would be like saying plans to increase the VAT on Burberry has sparked a backlash among chavs; who else would give a toss?

Jessica Wright, star of The Only Way Is Essex, a reality show so mind-numbing it should be shown to patients having neuro-surgery before they go under the knife, argues against the proposals in The Sun. She says “We’re in recession in this country so why do something like this which will just send business elsewhere?”

It is the same argument that people use against the 50% top rate of tax – it will drive people away. Well, go on then, piss off. If you don’t want to help out the country you made your money from, then buy that Tuscan villa and leave the rest of us to pick up the pieces. This also applies to cosmetic surgery. If you are stupid enough to head abroad for your personal enhancements, paying half price for liposuction in the back room of an adult video store in the Czech Republic then you don’t deserve to feel more confident in your own skin.

“I didn’t have particularly low confidence or self esteem before” she continues, “but having a boob job is something I’ve always wanted and now I feel that I look my best”. So a dense TOWIE star with barely enough brain cells to walk and talk simultaneously really “wanted” a boob job and this is why there should be no tax? Well, I’ve always wanted an island off the Greek coast, with beautiful sandy beaches and a mansion all to myself. But this doesn’t mean I shouldn’t pay my dues. Jessica should be thankful there is no levy on being thick or she’d be bone broke.

A doctor from the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons is quoted saying the tax could “harm large numbers of patients”. Yet it is hard to muster any sympathy for perma-tanned, leggy, reality show wannabes who only want a larger pair of knockers so they can appear in Nuts magazine after getting kicked out of Big Brother. Also, this doctor is fronting an aesthetic association of surgeons, so it’s hardly going to be delighted about a tax which is aimed at operations performed for purely aesthetic reasons. The group’s acronym even spells out BAAPS for crying out loud, so it should never be taken seriously.

 This rent-a-quote bollocks is comparable to having a spokesperson for the UK Alliance of Bonus Fund Protectors reacting irately to a windfall tax on banker’s pay supplements. Why do we never hear the other side of the story? Why do newspapers never quote the Too Poor to Pay for School Uniforms Union, with a livid cleaner on the minimum wage living in a high-rise flat hollering “Tax the bastards til their pips squeak!”

I know why. They haven’t got enough confidence without a boob job.

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Treat me like a child

I’m getting rather frustrated with people who think I cannot make choices for myself. When purchasing anything from WHSmiths, the cashier is contracted to ask if you would like any “sweets or chocolate for £1”. This is after walking past mountains of the stuff, all stickered to high heaven in lurid colours. In the country’s leading newsagent chain, you can barely swing a copy of Jamie Oliver’s new cookbook on to the fire without sending a pile of Wrigley’s gum tumbling to the floor.

I feel like saying “The purpose of your shop is to dispense newspapers, magazines, books and stationary. To be quite frank, Amazon offer everything you do, only a lot cheaper. I wish to buy my copy of Loaded without being accosted by a pitch for a paving slab of Cadbury’s Fruit & fucking Nut, even if it is only a quid”.

To add insult to injury they always give you an extra voucher alongside your purchase despite being readily available at the counter. Yesterday I was given an Ocado voucher worth £15 valid for transactions of at least £65. If I wanted to take Ocado up on this offer, I would have snapped up the voucher with my own hands, rather than suffer the humiliation of it being snuck between my copy of Private Eye. It’s a bit of a cheek. All it seems to lead to is a pile of unused vouchers clogging up the bins, like the flyers for club nights handed out to students, which always end up choking the nearest disposal unit.

It’s infantilising nonsense of the highest order. The bosses at Smiths must think that the general public can’t make these decisions themselves, which, as a member of the public myself, I find incredibly insulting. Besides, the confectionary offers aren’t even related to most people’s purchases. Who picks up a copy of The Daily Telegraph, a Parker pen and the latest Joseph Frantzen novel and then thinks “the only thing I need now is a miniature box of Ferrero Rochers and I’ll be sorted”.

A shop works on the principle that everything is laid out for the discerning customer. Each consumer then picks their choices and heads to the till (or if you are a chav, you walk to the exit and shoplift). If it doesn’t happen like this, why don’t the till workers at WHSmiths just point out random products because going on the basis of their sweets promotions, we obviously can’t be trusted to see everything. “Hello Sir. On the shelf above the sports magazines, there’s an excellent issue of Asian Babes, including a special feature on naughty housewives which I am sure you will appreciate. Furthermore, Melanie Phillips has a good rant about immigrants in The Daily Mail, which I imagine will be right up your alley”.

Argos are little better. When buying anything from the shopping equivalent of chaos theory, you have to negotiate the catalogue, with its writing tinier than the small print of an insurance policy and its thousands of items worth less than an England rugby player’s promise of sobriety.

So before buying anything, you are going to have checked that you have made the right decision and put the correct numbers on the order form, in case you end up with a children’s paddling pool when you actually wanted a patio heater. You will ensure you have done this in the approved manner or you will have to explain to the guests at your next evening soiree on the veranda that it might be a bit nippy outside but there’s a Finding Nemo inflatable ring full of freezing water you can take a dip in, should the fancy take you.

On most electrical items there is an option of insurance which costs a little extra. It is in the same minute writing as everything else, so why do the cashiers presume you forgot to read that bit and still ask if you want some? If I would have wanted insurance, I would have put it on your bloody order form! I would have used your crappy little pens to etch the catalogue number of the product’s insurance if I had wanted it. I don’t. So process my order and tell the lads in the back room to stop picking their spots and find my items.

They are permitted to ask me one question though: “Do you wish to hit me in the face with a lawnmower and then bite my head off?” Yes, only if I can have some £1 sweets to get rid of the taste.