Terry Fields Archive   |   ETOL Main Page

Terry Fields

Jailed for my principles

(July 1991)

From Militant, No. 1050, 19 July 1991, p. 4.
Transcribed by Iain Dalton.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

TERRY FIELDS has sent this message to all his constituents explaining why he had refused to pay the poll tax

To the residents of Broadgreen,

You will know that I have been sentenced to 60 days in prison for not paying the poll tax. As the media will misrepresent my actions, I am writing to each family in Broadgreen.

I have been jailed for my principles, for defending the people who elected me. I am not the first to suffer class injustice. Pensioners and other impoverished people have been imprisoned for the so-called ‘crime’ of being unable to pay the poll tax.

Workers were jailed for organising the first trade unions – and since. Women were jailed whilst campaigning for the right to vote. But for people who were prepared to put their principles before their self-interest, we would not have any democratic rights today.

I was the victim of a kangaroo court. My solicitor showed that the poll tax authorities have acted illegally – but the magistrates chose to ignore this. They were out to make an example of me, to try and intimidate ordinary people into paying the poll tax.

You elected me as your MP in 1983 and again in 1987. I promised to be a workers’ MP on a workers’ wage. Since then I’ve remained on the wage of a firefighter, not the £28,000 that most MP’s live on. I remain true to the people of Broadgreen, remaining in touch with your conditions.

Since you elected me I have seen the savage attacks on workers, pensioners, the unemployed and our children. The poll tax is the worst of these attacks. It aims to pauperise the already needy and line the pockets of the super-rich. The vast majority agree that it is the most vicious law imposed on the nation.

14 million ordinary people banded together in mass civil disobedience, refusing to pay. They caused the downfall of Thatcher. Mass non-payment forced the Tories to concede a £140 rebate to all poll tax payers. It forced the Tories to promise poll tax abolition.

But the poll tax remains for two years. I have pledged to stand with those unable to pay – the low-paid, the pensioner, the housewife, those on benefits. For those law-abiding people it is not a question of breaking the law but their inability to pay. For me it is a question of not abandoning them but of standing shoulder to shoulder with them.

I am no martyr. I did not wish to go to prison, to be separated from my family. I know from many of my constituents just how appalling prison conditions are. But I was elected to defend your interests. If imprisonment is the price for being principled, for saying what I mean and meaning what I say, so be it. Hopefully my stand will hasten the complete abolition of the poll tax.

The Tories and their rich friends in industry are the ones who should be on trial. They have destroyed our NHS, underfunded our education system, condemned our children to a life on the dole. The fat cats in industry reap in profits one day, award themselves obscene pay rises and sack workers the next. These are the real criminals, guilty of crimes against all of us.

I remain at your service, standing with you against injustice, feeling privileged to represent you. I will not rest until all my constituents are free from the fear of poll tax debt, bailiffs and jailings.

Stand up to the Tories!

Terry Fields MP

Terry Fields Archive   |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 8 March 2017