An unfair and hated tax
The Tory Government had decided to implement a new tax on April 1st 1990 to replace local government taxation systems. They described as their most important, ‘flagship’ legislation. It was to be a tax on each person rather than on property (as before). The government named it the ‘Community Charge’, but protestors dubbed it ‘the Poll Tax’, drawing parallels with the legendary Poll Tax mass uprisings in 1381 which successfully defeated the idea for 600 years!
It was immediately seen as a tax on the poor (who lived in more crowded conditions than the rich, obviously) and an extension of government powers over the population due to the need for registration of every individual.
The battle of Trafalgar (Square) A countrywide demonstration was planned for Central London. On March 31st 1990 over 250,000 people participated in the demo, calling for mass non-payment and resistance to the tax. There was a carnival atmosphere. As the demonstration passed Thatcher’s headquarters (Downing St) there was a confrontation with police, which soon turned into a battle with mounted police and riot units. Eventually, Trafalgar Sq nearby became a battleground as thousands of people fought police for control of the square. As the police became more desperate and brutal the battle spread to nearby streets and throughout the main commercial streets in the West End. It went on for hours.
Public support increased after the demo. By the following year 18 million people were refusing to pay the tax. Thatcher resigned, largely as a result of the damage to her credibility and strategy over the poll tax fiasco. And a few days before an anniversary demo at Trafalgar Sq the next March, PM John Major announced that the tax was uncollectable and would be scrapped.