Friday 22 June 2012

Carr, Cameron and Question Time

Richard Murphy writes about Jimmy Carr's tax affairs and Cameron's missteps thereover.

There was a pretty good discussion of this issue in the first fifteen minutes or so of Question Time last night. Unite's Len McCluskey was superb -- informed, articulate and seemingly familiar with the Tax Justice Network. Ken Clarke was surly, evasive and clearly uncomfortable with the subject matter. His strategy was simply to avoid the question and dismiss, for instance, the slashing of HMRC budgets as unimportant. Against McCluskey's facts, figures and evidence (for example, that tax collectors bring in far more money than they cost to employ) he just turned his nose up and snorted. I think the audience noticed the difference.

Besides a handful of steam-eared reactionaries the mood was very much suggesting that the Carr case has been overblown, that the government was massively hypocritical and that they should be doing more to enforce the law with regard to tax rather than just complaining about particular cases. In fact, that last point was agreed on fairly unanimously, across the benches, as it were. For that reason it was unfortunate that no one really challenged Clarke's claim that the Tories are implementing a general anti-avoidance rule because, as we know, it is that in name only. They're making noises about cracking down on tax cheats precisely so that they can let ever more of them off the hook.

Andy Burnham came across very well generally, although he had very little to say about the tax issue. It continues to puzzle me why Labour are so reluctant to pile in on this issue more seriously as it's clearly a significant Tory weakness.

Cameron has created a rod for his own back by admitting that tax avoidance, while legal, is immoral. He mustn't be allowed to forget it. I'm confident that the likes of Murphy, the TJN, UK Uncut and so on will ensure that he won't!