Can’t Pay, Won’t Pay: The Fight to Stop the Poll Tax

By Simon Hannah

Published by Pluto Press in Mar 2020 192 pages £16.99

‘Simon Hannah tells the story of a great popular upsurge that brought down a hated Tory leader. We need this history of the poll tax revolt like never before. A must-read for every activist’ – Neil Faulkner, author of ‘A Radical History of the World’

‘Simon’s book is a lucid and valuable contribution to the rich history of the anti-poll tax movement and gives a heartfelt voice to the millions of non-payers who brought Thatcher down’ – Steve Nally, Former Secretary of the All Britain Anti-Poll Tax Federation


Thirty years ago, a social movement helped bring down one of the most powerful British Prime Ministers of the 20th Century. For the 30th anniversary of the Poll Tax rebellion, Simon Hannah looks back on those tumultuous days of resistance, telling the story of the people that beat the bailiffs, rioted for their rights and defied a government.

Starting in Scotland where the ‘Community Charge’ was first trialled, Can’t Pay, Won’t Pay immerses the reader in the gritty history of the rebellion. Amidst the drama of large scale protests and blockaded estates a number of key figures and groups emerge: Neil Kinnock and Tommy Sheridan; Militant, Class War and the Metropolitan Police.

Assessing this legacy today, Hannah demonstrates the centrality of the Poll Tax resistance as a key chapter in the history of British popular uprisings, Labour Party factionalism, the anti-socialist agenda and failed Tory ideology.

1. A Brief History of Tax Resistance and Revolutions
2. Why a Poll Tax?
3. Scotland
4. Debates Over Strategy
5. The Resistance Begins
6. The Battle of Trafalgar (Square)
7. A Ragtag Army
8. Endgame
9. Social Movements, Class and Strategy
Conclusions: A System Shaken or Broken?

This book can be purchased from Pluto Press here.

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