Friday, August 20, 2010

 

Curse of Sleaze Strikes Tories Again

My picture shows fat-cat Sir Philip Green along with two very plumpish ones who are clearly his mates. The Tories had great fun slagging off the likes of Labour's Elliot Morley during the expenses scandal and Cameron adroitly seized the moral high ground on the issue by appearing to be mercilessly hard on offenders in his own ranks. However, just like New Labour, after 1997, when Bernie Ecclestone simultaneously made his £1m donation and self interested pitch for F1 exclusion from a ban on tobacco advertising, voters' nostrils can be tickled by the acrid smell of sleaze from even the most saintly of political parties. And so it has proved with two appointments in the last few days.

The first is billionaire David Rowland, appointed as Treasurer to the Conservatives way back in June. He has now turned down the offer, ostensibly due 'to the expansion of his global business interests' but the real reason is the unease expressed over his status as a tax exile. People who earn huge sums of money and pay clever accountants to remove their tax obligations are not looked upon neutrally any more. After all, every recipient of the minimim wage has to pay their fair share into the state kitty to pay for common public services.

Even more reprehensible is the case of Sir Philip Green, the astonishingly successful Arcadia entrepreneur, who seems to think he should be excluded from such obligations even though he has been appointed appointed a government adviser on efficiency:

Green banked the biggest pay cheque in corporate history in 2005 when his Arcadia fashion business, which owns Topshop, paid a £1.2bn dividend. The record-breaking payment was paid to his wife, Tina, who lives in Monaco and is the direct owner of Arcadia. As a result, no UK income tax was due.


That's a whole lot of money to take outside the hand of the HMRC and merely illustrates the arrogance of the man: making his wife the technical owner of his business is a s cynical sleight of hand whereby the community from which he so richly benefits is denied its proper due. I heard him on Today, spluttering that he already pays several hundred million pounds in tax. Not the point, Sir Phil. I earn from my work and a small amount from my book royalties. I have to pay tax on both sources; just because I pay for one does not exempt me from paying the other.

Clearly Green did not like being interrogated on this topic; he'd better get used to it as it already has status of a prominent stigma attached to the Coalition. Green's ability to run retail businesses is clearly phenomenal and his potential advice to government useful but I suspect his longevity in post will be no longer than the likes of Lord Digby Jones and the other 'goats' appointed by Gordon Brown in 2007.

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