It seems every candidate to succeed as the leader of Britain’s ‘party for business’ is a ‘self-made multi-millionaire’ with a crock of skeletons left over from their path to riches – particularly relating to the common trait of tax dodging.
Tax dodging, which one must hasten to explain refers to ‘avoidance’ rather than ‘evasion’, is one of the methods by which the financially advantaged become increasingly advantaged at the expense of the financially disadvantaged, who unlike them are not in a position to manage their own salaries, hire accountants and set up off-shore companies to avoid tax on their properties and other assets.
Having the opportunity to swap jurisdictions or claim ‘non-dom’ status is an added advantage for such wheeler dealers cum politicians. However, their mean and selfish credentials disqualify these would-be prime ministers from any convincing claim to being ‘in it with the rest of us’ just as much as Boris’s partying did during Covid.
Law makers ought not chase loopholes in their own laws to enrich themselves.
Nonetheless, without exception, these Tory contenders espouse the view that their ‘business brain’ is what the country needs in a leader – someone with proven ability for getting rich (at the expense of others in their case) rather than someone concerned to govern with everyone in mind.
The justification is that their creation of wealth (for themselves) creates jobs. Perhaps the likes of Mr Zahawi could elaborate during their leadership pitches how hiding one’s wealth from tax in an off-shore haven creates jobs for anyone besides a bunch of lawyers and bankers, who are doubtless happy to fund his political party?
Meanwhile, should Mr Zahawi be raced to the emergency ward, it will as a consequence be the less well off who pay for his treatment and likewise the less well off who bear the brunt of all the other expenses that enable him to enjoy a working transport system, law and order, defence, a civil service and justice system along with all the rest of those vital job creating services that his party spends its time trying to squeeze in the name of ‘small government’.
If these tax dodgers were contributing fairly to such services, surely they might exhibit greater interest in seeing the money properly spent, rather than handed out on crony contracts like a third world kleptocracy? Instead, the key obsession they appear to share is with further tax cutting for business and the wealthy like themselves.
Here is the line up of top Tory contenders who have shown themselves willing to dodge the laws that force the rest of us to contribute to our society:
Jeremy Hunt (self-made multi-millionaire)
Mr Hunt has made it absolutely clear that he has not broken any law. However, he seems unable to deny that he’s been a successful ‘loopholer’ when it comes to avoiding that scourge for the rest of us, stamp duty. In 2018 The Mirror broke the news of his ‘bulk flat buying’ scheme (no less than 7 houses through a company directed by his wife) which saved him £100,000, for example.
Clearly this is not the sort of manoeuvre available to the average Joe. He also failed to declare his controlling interest in the venture in the proper manner, thereby breaking the laws on anti-money laundering brought in by his own government. Police accepted that this was a mistake.
Nadhim Zahawi (self-made multi-millionaire)
The concerns over Mr Zahawi are already spawning a multiplicity of challenges and queries against the backdrop of his earlier business dealings advising a Kurdish oil venture whose bosses are now in jail for fraud.
And when it came to buying his multi-million pound palaces in London and his constituency this British Chancellor chose to do so through off-shore companies .. in order to avoid his own government’s taxes. Likewise, it appears he has invested in his flagship polling company You Gov through off-shore companies. He has avoided saying if this was to avoid his own government’s taxes.
This according to the Parliamentary all party group on Corruption which has just issued a slew of other questions about the tax dodging Chancellor, who nevertheless plainly thinks he is just the man to steer the nation, given he has been secretly crafting his leadership bid for months behind Boris Johnson’s back using the Prime Minister’s own advisors as his inside track (clearly he could pay them more than the financially challenged incumbent of No 10).
Rishi Sunak (Self-made multi-billionaire through marriage)
No less unedifying is the tax dodging of the only too recent previous Chancellor – or at least his wife, who has inherited the family cash. Once again, it has become clear that all efforts have been taken to keep that money out of the clutches of his own department of state over the preceding years.
His wife achieved this feat by simply claiming she is not British based – her ‘non-domicile’ status has saved her potentially tens of millions in taxes on her billion pound fortune it has been revealed in the past weeks, whilst at the same time her husband has been clawing crippling amounts of money back from the hard pressed masses via 15 tax rises and by putting up National Insurance premiums they can’t avoid.
She has apologised, but she is no worse than her husband who whilst Chancellor of the United Kingdom was forced to admit that for 19 months in the role (and the previous 6 years as an MP) he had been declaring himself as a “permanent US resident” as a green card holder. He has not explained why and she has not explained where she keeps her cash and whether any of is held in tax havens.
The other key contender for the job has shown himself to be equally canny in avoiding paying his dues to society through taxes. After all, he had also succeeded in classing himself as a ‘non-dom’ (despite being British and working in Britain) for six years before entering politics.
To do so he had to declare that despite being British born he did not intend to continue to live in the UK over the longer term.
Deciding later to enter politics instead, he nonetheless failed, whilst an MP and PPS to then Chancellor George Osborne, to declare (as required by Parliamentary rules) a family off-shore company he had an interest in. When asked whether the the money coming in from off-shore was subject to tax he declined to answer.
Whilst a banker he was linked to Dark Blue Investments which ran an employee benefit trust where staff were paid their share bonuses via trusts to avoid tax. The Supreme Court later ruled that tax ought to be paid on these bonuses.
These are now among the Conservative Party’s top contenders to lead the country. Men who have demonstrated their willingness to slide out of their own patriotic obligations to pay their fair dues to the common weal whilst imposing cut backs and austerity measures against everybody else.
They think all this shows they are smart. They think they are equipped to be the ‘CEO’ of the country having shown how to duck the rules that they themselves impose. The rest of society are left to trust their theories of ‘trickle down effect’ (jobs servicing their luxurious needs) will keep the rest of society prosperous.
Clearly, there were jobs to be had, for example, building Mr Sunak’s £250,000 heated swimming pool, gym and tennis court for his manor house – the £13,000 a year fuel bills will not be a worry for him at least.
As more contenders throw their caps into the ring the picture becomes even more besmirched – Grant Schapps’s own business expose’s have included impersonation, lying denials and whispers that the police were investigating him for fraud.
We are happy to confirm that the police dropped their investigations into Schapp’s denials that he was the online salesman ‘Michael Green’ (which he finally acknowledged he was). A Guardian expose detailed that “casting himself as an internet marketing guru, Shapps claimed in 2007 that audiences could “make $20,000 in 20 days guaranteed or your money back” – if they spent $200 buying his bespoke software”. Sadly, this proved not to be the case. Schapps then became an MP and soon ran down the operation.
According to a Metropolitan Police statement “Legal advice was sought which concluded that the selling of the software may constitute an offence of fraud, amongst others. However, upon the conclusion of the assessment process the MPS have decided not to instigate a criminal investigation and have now closed this matter.”
Conservatives will be selecting from these and some other leadership candidates over the next few days, after which the country will have to live with the choice until there is an election.