Monday 23 January 2023

Tax Needn't Be Taxing

It was a two horse race! Following the weekend's Tory corruption revelations, who was destined to dominate the politics come Monday? Would it be Boris Johnson, who took out a £800k loan facilitated by the man he later appointed to the top of the BBC? Or would Nadhim Zahawi gallop ahead of the blond bombshell with his vast unpaid tax bill, which he negotiated a settlement of - including a penalty of over a million pounds - with HMRC while Chancellor, the man in charge of tax and tax enforcement? With Johnson cosplaying as Prime Minister over in Kyiv, it's Zahawi who's won this particular race. Well done him.

Eagle-eyed Westminster watchers noted how James Cleverly refused to offer a defence of Zahawi when invited to on Laura Kuenssberg on Sunday. And though Zahawi is playing variations of keep mum/nothing to see here/everything above board/an honest mistake and therefore is refusing to resign, Rishi Sunak has adopted a favourite tactic of Johnson's and kicked the can down the road. He's asked the cabinet's "independent" ethics advisor to look into the affair, just so it can be brushed off when the report is filed months down the line. So much for Sunak's promises of political integrity when he assumed office.

As we saw with the Suella Braverman case, Sunak is absolutely loath to let anyone go. For Sunak's Tories are the same party as his predecessors - their authority is bound up with the projection of a strong prime ministerial figure. If that goes, they go. Ask Liz Truss, Boris Johnson, and Theresa May. Beset by chaos on all sides and an eroding electoral base, Sunak's not about to make his predicament worse by appearing weak and getting shot of a minister whenever the press says boo to a goose. And as for Zahawi who, despite placing miserably in the summer's leadership contest, he still has political ambitions and would like to keep his seat in the bunker right up until the moment the Tory fronts collapse. Because when opposition comes, especially in the early years of a Starmer government, opportunities for notability will be few and far between. Unless there are new revelations about his tax dodging or strong arming HMRC or threatening to sic lawyers on nosey tax specialists, or if Sunak tells him to resign with dignity, he won't.

While this is another example of double standards and a sign of corrupt practices, as far as many Tories are concerned if anything Zahawi should be awarded a gong for going without paying. When an "entrepreneur" launches a business, they have a divine right to the money it makes. Never mind that surplus value and profit are ultimately unpaid wages, from their point of view it's the reward of hard effort, genius, and nous. For the state to come along and claim a wodge in taxes to fund some public service run by Marxists is appalling. That business is impossible without the public infrastructure maintained by the state is one for the memory hole. Therefore, to side step tax through elaborate avoidance schemes is actually virtuous. Zahawi and those like him are exercising their sovereign powers to say no and deserve admiration, not opprobrium. Some Tories might genuinely possess the taxpayer's outook and be genuinely angry about Zahawi seeing as they've dutifully paid their taxes and contributions, but the cognoscenti know this is nonsense reserved for the punters. Fill your boots while you can is the Tory way, and those not averse to diverting state money to causes and interests close to them aren't bothered, let alone ashamed. Least of all Sunak, who had a few taxing difficulties of his own.

It's obvious Zahawi's position is untenable, and it might be that the public pressure will prove too much. Johnson might be gone, but his epigoni are set on demonstrating how transparently crooked the party still is. With nothing left to lose and electoral defeat certain, why not openly affect your contempt for the rules and abuse your power for personal gain?

Image Credit


Anonymous said...

The Zahawi story is about 1 man’s misdeeds whilst the Johnson story speaks to a wider corruption in the Establishment so the media would prefer to not dig too deeply into that, which is why Zahawi is the story that is running.

David Lindsay said...

Since HMRC has already investigated Nadhim Zahawi, what is Sir Laurie Magnus supposed to be investigating? I mean, it could not possibly be that, oh, I don't know, the 30 per cent penalty, the one for mere carelessness, was a lot less than should have been imposed? The Chairman of the governing party, Zahawi's tax affairs led to his being blocked for a knighthood in the New Year's Honours List. Get out of that one.

If Sam Blyth gave Boris Johnson a loan, then what was the repayment plan? This was not a loan. This was a bribe. On the combined salaries of a Member of Parliament and of the Prime Minister, a total of £248,224, Johnson needed another £800,000 to get by. He needed it so badly that he was prepared to sell the Chair of the BBC for the arrangement of it. Ministers advised potential candidates other than Richard Sharp not to bother applying. This was well-organised. Johnson's chaotic persona has always been largely an act.

Was this even Johnson's only such arrangement? What else did he sell? And what did he spend it on? Remember this when the poor, most of whom are in full-time work, are told to budget properly, in which they are in fact the experts, literally counting every penny. Nurses would indeed not be using foodbanks if they had interest free overdrafts, never to be called in, of up to £800,000. Nor if they only had to pay as much tax as they felt like paying, and only when they felt like paying it.

As for more than half of households getting more from the State than they paid in tax, if you contrive a society of extreme economic inequality, then that is what is bound to happen. What did you expect? In "you", I include Keir Starmer, Rachel Reeves, and that Yvette Cooper, the Wicked Witch of the Work Capability Assessment, whose familiar, Ed Balls, has taken to the airwaves to defend Zahawi.

But Starmer's dishonesty is becoming a story. He lied to his party members to get their votes, so he would lie to anyone else to get their votes. We are heading for a hung Parliament. To strengthen families and communities by securing economic equality and international peace through the democratic political control of the means to those ends, including national and parliamentary sovereignty, we need to hold the balance of power. Owing nothing to either main party, we must be open to the better offer. There does, however, need to be a better offer. Not a lesser evil, which in any case the Labour Party is not.

Robert Dyson said...

An aside comment. Sunak always retaliates with "... for 4 years stood by the member for Islington North when anti-Semitism was rife in the Party". Had Starmer been honest about the internal report and the Forde report, this would not have been an attack distraction. I accept spin but not dishonesty - it can come back to bite.