A blog for the socially and politically conscious, written by a young, gay activist who strongly believes in equality and justice.

Friday, 5 March 2010

A highly taxing problem

So Tory peer Lord Ashcroft has finally come clean, 10 years after entering the House of Lords, that he is happy to benefit from his non-domiciled status to avoid paying the tax that he should. His convoluted explanation that, if a David Cameron-led Tory government were to come to power and disqualify non-doms from sitting in Parliament, he would abide by that law begs more questions than it answers. If he believes that this is what Cameron plans, which would imply that it must be Tory Party policy, why doesn't he abide by it already? Does he believe that paying the right amount of taxation is dependent on what flavour of government is in office? Surely he, Cameron and everyone else can see that there is a fundamental democratic deficit when someone sitting in either house of Parliament is able to decide on laws that apply to the rest of us but prefers to avoid paying the rate of tax payable by every other resident. And non-dom Ashcroft, as the Tories' major financial donor, is unimpeded in his ongoing project of targeting specific vulnerable Labour-held seats to fund a snowstorm of leaflets and other propaganda to tip the general election the Tories' way.

However, it is irritating to see ministers such as Home Secretary Alan Johnson whooping triumphantly about the revelation that the Tories are funded substantially by a non-dom, when he must know that Labour is equally culpable. Labour's Swraj Paul, who is ranked 88th in the Sunday Times rich list, is also a non-dom tax-avoider and, despite his personal riches, felt the need to claim £38,000 in expenses for a flat outside London which he designated his main residence but admitted that he had never spent so much as a night there. Paul was made deputy speaker in the Lords in 2008 and was also appointed to the Privy Council by dint of his close relationship with Gordon Brown as a significant contributor to Labour Party funds.
With both Labour and Tories, it becomes clear that one special condition applies to anyone prepared to fill up their coffers. If they're rich enough, they're good enough. Nor have the Liberal Democrats got a leg to stand on when it comes to political sugar daddies.

Convicted fraudster Michael Brown was an overseas resident who was not registered to vote in Britain, so to circumvent this inconvenience he used a personal company to channel £2.4m to the Lib Dems in 2005. Amazingly, the Electoral Commission allowed them to keep this windfall on the grounds that, while Brown had swindled various people out of £36m, he hadn't used this particular company as part of his crooked endeavours. Nevertheless, Brown's money and, by extension, the Lib Dems' was the result of criminal activities. The Tories are pleased to rely on big business and the wealthy, irrespective of their willingness to pay income tax, to finance their party. Labour and Lib Dems would be happier with state finance of political parties. But the one thing that they all look down on is trade union contributions to the Labour Party, even though these donations are transparent and subject to approval by union members. If all party financial gifts were as open and accountable as union political funds, politics would not reek so highly of corruption and hypocrisy.

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