Please excuse my writing this open letter, but I’m sure you’ll understand that a time of crisis calls for such desperate measures. As you know, London faces huge financial pressures. The coming years will bring new challenges: a lack of housing and infrastructure, an increasing population, gentrification, social cleansing, cereal cafés. But to tackle these issues we need money, and (until your party donors get around to paying their tax bills) we just don’t have any. That’s why I’d like to propose a solution that could solve two of London’s biggest problems. It’s time to reintroduce the Beard Tax.
I say ‘reintroduce’ because a tax on beards isn’t new in English law. If you believe Wikipedia, our famously beardy king Henry VIII levied one in 1535. The genius of Henry’s tax was (apparently) that it was means-tested: the richer you were, the more you had to pay for the privilege of letting your chin-bristles run free. Just think of the opportunities! Richard Branson alone would raise millions. So would Evening Standard owner and celebrity limpet Evgeny Lebedev, once his Captain Haddock (which Elton John charitably shaved off this week) grows back. Even Roman Abramovich and Alan Sugar would have to cough up for their razor-dodging ways.
But it’s not just the super-rich: the Beard Tax would also be great for social equality in London’s outer boroughs. Okay, just Hackney. But if the lumbersexuals colonising working-class areas were forced to pay for the privilege of maintaining their luxuriant, Edwardian-style facial hair, we could use that money to build social housing for the poor families being squeezed out by trendy bars.
I’ll acknowledge that there are a number of potential issues here. Sikhs, Muslims and Orthodox Jews might have something to say about it, but we could obviously excuse beards worn for religious reasons. (No, fashion is still not a religion.) Tax avoidance could become a problem: you wouldn’t need a Swiss HSBC account, just a shaving kit. But there must be some Mr Twit lookalikes out there who’ve got their sense of individuality and masculinity so tangled up in their beard that they’d rather pay through their hairy nose than get rid of the damn thing.
Pogonophobia? No, this is sound economics. The Beard Tax could save London – or at least finally put a stop to the worst male grooming trend since designer stubble.
James Manning (who could’t grow a beard to save his life)
Or maybe you love facial topiary? If so, you’ll want to head to the new ‘Beards’ exhibition at Somerset House, which opens today.