Britain’s Tax Avoidance Scandal and David Cameron’s Colossal Hypocrisy

When David Cameron responded to a Times investigation into offshore tax avoidance schemes, which found that around 1,000 individuals — including the comedian Jimmy Carr, and other celebrities, including musicians and sports stars — were paying as little as 1% of their earnings in tax through a legal, but morally unacceptable scheme in Jersey, a notorious tax haven, he decided to take the moral high ground.

Saying that media reports of Carr’s financial arrangements suggested “straightforward tax avoidance,” the Prime Minister added:

I think some of these schemes — and I think particularly of the Jimmy Carr scheme — I have had time to read about and I just think this is completely wrong [sic]. People work hard, they pay their taxes, they save up to go to one of his shows. They buy the tickets. He is taking the money from those tickets and he, as far as I can see, is putting all of that into some very dodgy tax avoiding schemes. That is wrong. There is nothing wrong with people planning their tax affairs to invest in their pension and plan for their retirement — that sort of tax management is fine. But some of these schemes we have seen are quite frankly morally wrong. The government is acting by looking at a general anti-avoidance law but we do need to make progress on this. It is not fair on hardworking people who do the right thing and pay their taxes to see these sorts of scams taking place. Read the rest of this entry »

UK Uncut Holds Anti-Austerity Party Outside Nick Clegg’s House in Putney, London

So I’m sure you’re all aware that Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II celebrates her Diamond Jubilee this year. To mark the occasion, the Whitsun Bank Holiday has been moved from May 28 to June 4, and a Diamond Jubilee Holiday has been added on June 5, making a bumper four-day holiday, in which the emphasis will be on an expensive nationalistic back-slapping celebration of Little England myopia, and no one in government will be discussing how much this orgy of manipulative jingoism will be costing, both in terms of the celebrations, or the cost in lost productivity (which would cause outrage in government, if, for example, it came about through a strike). I also suspect that there will be little visible dissent, and certainly not my preference — hordes of anarchists on black-clad bicycles, flying black and grey Union Jacks, and with pedal-driven sound systems pumping out the Sex Pistols’ “God Save the Queen” on a permanent loop at street parties up and down the country.

One organization opposed to the jubilee celebrations are the theatrical anti-austerity activists of UK Uncut, who, on Saturday, held alternative street parties up and down the country, and, in London, took over Parkfields Road in Putney, where Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg lives. As they explained in a press release:

UK Uncut had previously only announced that their protest would directly confront the high profile ‘architects of austerity’, the politicians, bankers and tax avoiders they they see as responsible for the government’s cuts. The move to directly target politicians marks a significant change in tactics for the group which is well known for targeting tax avoiders, such as Vodafone, Sir Philip Green’s stores, Boots and Fortnum & Masons. Read the rest of this entry »

Come to UK Uncut’s Anti-Austerity Street Party in London and Across the UK, Saturday May 26

Fed up with an artificial age of austerity, designed to destroy the welfare state and transfer every remaining function of the state — the NHS, education, land, property, even the police — into private hands? Fed up with being told by wealthy, out-of-touch Tories that “we’re all in this together,” when we clearly aren’t? Fed up of the nationalistic nonsense driving the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, 35 years after the Sex Pistols’ “God Save the Queen” accurately demolished deference to the monarchy? Fed up with the corporate, militarised, jingoistic haemorrhaging of money for the Olympics?

Then you, my friend, need to attend UK Uncut’s Great British Street Party, next Saturday, May 26. As the anti-cuts direct action group explained last month in an announcement of the plans:

Let’s go on a journey back in time to the year 1948 …

Britain was emerging from a World War and had a huge national debt. Much bigger than the one we face today. Did we see painful cut backs and austerity measures? No, quite the opposite. We saw the birth of our National Health Service and the Welfare State. The UK was the first country to make health care, social care and financial security accessible to all.

1948 saw the launch of ground-breaking new laws designed to protect and care for everybody in our society, including universal unemployment benefits, universal child benefits, disability benefits, rights to housing and the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Read the rest of this entry »

How Can We Stop the Tories’ Relentless Destruction of Britain?

On Wednesday, the coalition government delivered a dud Queen’s Speech demonstrating that they have run out of ideas, apart from insisting, like deranged automata, that their inflexibility and lack of vision is actually helpful. In the House of Commons, David Cameron claimed that the Queen’s Speech was “about a government taking the tough, long-term decisions to restore our country to strength, dealing with the deficit, rebalancing the economy and building a society that rewards people who work hard and do the right thing.”

That is ridiculous, of course, as the Tory-led government’s mania for austerity has pushed Britain into a double-dip recession, and rewards are the last thing being visited on “people who work hard and do the right thing.” Instead, the ordinary hard-working people of Britain are being squeezed financially and besieged by ministers whose only message seems to be to tell people to be permanently insecure, while the only people who really matter to those in power — those rich enough not to feel the squeeze — continue to get richer through their dubious investments in property, their exploitative ventures around the world, and their shareholding in private companies profiting or preparing to profit from the destruction of the state (as with the NHS, for example).

In the Guardian, Simon Jenkins did a good job of kicking the government, as they deserve to be kicked, in an article entitled, “George Osborne’s growth policy is turning British cities into Detroit UK.” Jenkins began by noting, with reference to the pan-European obsession with austerity over the last two years, that “Europe’s collective response to the 2008 credit crunch ranks with the treaty of Versailles and German reparations among the great follies of history.” Read the rest of this entry »

Tories Disobey Court Order, Refuse to Release Damning NHS Risk Register

Is there no end to the arrogance of this wretched government? In February, while pushing their vile bill to destroy the welfare state, the Tory-led coalition resorted to dismissing important amendments demanded by the House of Lords by invoking “financial privilege,” an arcane set-up whereby, as Conservative Home explained in a highly critical post, The House of Commons has “‘sole rights’ in respect of financial legislation that applies indivisibly to public expenditure and to the raising of revenue to meet that expenditure.”

Now, in a disgraceful manoeuvre designed to prevent the public from knowing the full extent of the damage to the NHS as a result of the Health and Social Care bill that was passed in March, the government has decided to use its veto — a tactic “used only three times before in the previous decade,” as the Guardian explained — to block an important ruling by the Information Commissioner, who, last November, ordered the government to release its risk register regarding the dangers of its planned NHS reforms. The government appealed the decision, but was ordered to release the risk register for a second time by the first-tier tribunal for Information Rights just a week and a half before the bill was passed.

Furthermore, as I explained a month ago, when the tribunal’s judgment (PDF) was finally made public, it was so damning that it might have derailed the bill had it been made available earlier. As Dr. Éoin Clarke explained on his blog The Green Benches, “I have never read a more damning judgment by a UK court on a government’s flouting of democracy … [T]he court unanimously decided that the NHS Bill was contrary to the Tory manifesto, unexpected, rushed, far reaching, pre-judged and without proper consultation. In effect, the judgment implies that the Tories cynically hid their plans to carve up the NHS prior to the 2010 election. You and I knew that of course, but to read it in black & white from a court judgment is truly unprecedented. This document … is a devastating indictment of the Tory handling of our democratic process. The judges unanimously ruled the Tory government should release the full contents of the NHS Risk Register.” Read the rest of this entry »

UK Elections: Huge Labour Gains, Huge Tory and Lib Dem Losses, Boris Holds London, But Also Sweeping Apathy

As everyone expected, the Tories and the Liberal Democrats were largely humiliated in Thursday’s local council elections across England, Scotland and Wales, and Labour made huge gains.

With all 181 councils having declared their results, Labour had taken over 32, to control 75 in total, while the Tories were down to 42, having lost 12. With 4863 council seats declared, Labour had gained 824, and had 2159 in total, the Tories had lost 403 and had 1006 in total, and the Lib Dems had lost 329, and had 438 in total.

The only good news, from a Tory point of view, was that Boris Johnson narrowly held onto London for a second term as Mayor, beating Ken Livingstone, but it is also clear that, to win, Johnson had to stand apart from his colleagues in central government, and his success can only make David Cameron look worse rather than better. Personally, I find that disappointing, as Ken offered to help hard-working Londoners by cutting fares, whereas Boris offered nothing more than his usual stand-up routine, but whether through his own failings, or through a media that was extraordinarily biased against him, Ken appeared to have no chance of winning whatsoever, and he should, therefore, take comfort from the fact that so many people actually voted decisively against the Tories and almost brought him victory. It was also significant that Jenny Jones, for the Green party, beat the Lib Dems and the hapless Brian Paddick into fourth place.

Excepting the London Mayoral victory, the elections have been a disaster for the Tories, and the results countrywide have been a disaster for the Lib Dems, but across the UK there is no real sense of triumph as far as I can tell (outside of Labour political circles), and the most depressing statistic to take from the elections is the sad truth that only a third of those who were eligible to vote actually bothered to do so. Read the rest of this entry »

As Britain Enters Double-Dip Recession, George Osborne and David Cameron Remain Clueless, Arrogant and Inflexible

Only 23 percent of those eligible to vote elected these clowns to run the country, and yet we’ve ended up with two whey-faced Etonian buffoons — David Cameron and George Osborne, who are both clever only to the extent that they can conjure up the illusion of intelligence — driving the UK over a cliff.

Recently blasted by Conservative MP Noreen Dorries as “two arrogant posh boys who show no remorse, no contrition and no passion to want to understand the lives of others,” and by other Tory MPs as being full of “sneering condescension,” lacking a core set of beliefs, and lazy, they have weathered two years of Frankenstein-like rule with their coalition partners, managing, somehow, to get away with blaming Labour, the Euro, students, the poor, the unemployed and the disabled for all our economic problems, but their illusion of competence, and the success of their cynical manipulation of the British people appears to be coming to an end.

Cameron has seemed particularly out of touch lately, on the one hand calling for children to “stand up when their parents or teacher walks in the room” like a Victorian patriarchal bully, and on the other sending out a message that he is a “new man” by apparently starting work late on some days so that he can drive his  own presumably cowed and saluting children to school, which, of course, only adds to the conviction that, as a Prime Minister, he is indeed lazy. Read the rest of this entry »

Can Jeremy Hunt Prevent a Tsunami of Sleaze from Engulfing David Cameron?

What a disgrace the Tories are. Even on the election trail two years ago, it was clear that they were sucking up to Rupert Murdoch in an even more ingratiating manner than previous parties on the verge of unseating the existing government. Moreover, it was, I contend, only public outrage — over the revelation that the phone of murdered teenager Milly Dowler had been hacked by News of the World reporters — which, last July, definitively prevented the government from allowing the Murdochs and News International from upping their stake in BSkyB from 39 percent to 100 percent, and becoming an unrivalled titan on the British broadcasting scene with a dangerous and undemocratic monopoly.

Last July, when the police arrested Andy Coulson, the former News of the World editor who, conveniently, had subsequently become Cameron’s Chief of Communications, the scandal threatened to engulf David Cameron, and I wrote two articles, Why Would Anyone Trust David Cameron, As Police Arrest Andy Coulson? and Waiting for the Fall of David Cameron, which, I hoped, would reflect a major change in the public’s perception of the Prime Minister, and a widespread awareness of the extent of the Tories’ corruption.

That huge backlash did not emerge, however, as the public soon moved on, and Cameron survived. However, although It’s impossible to know whether political incompetence or sleaze plays the biggest role in discrediting corrupt and useless governments, it’s clear that the tide is turning against David Cameron, George Osborne, and the rest of the tired neo-liberal idiots — and Lib Dem stooges — who make up the Cabinet. Read the rest of this entry »

As Sleaze Engulfs the Tories, Is This the Beginning of the End?

No one should be surprised that, as was revealed in secret footage shot by the Sunday Times in an investigation into government sleaze, the Tories’ co-treasurer Peter Cruddas offered access to the Prime Minister David Cameron and the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, in exchange for donations of up to £250,000, with the thinly-veiled promise that it would be helpful to donors’ interests.

Cruddas, who has made an estimated £750 million fortune in financial speculation, and is the founder of the online trading company Currency Management Consultants, met with, and was filmed by Sunday Times reporters posing as potential donors, who, as the BBC described it, “said they were British expats working for a company called Zenith incorporated in Liechtenstein with wealthy Middle Eastern funders.”

Telling the reporters that £250,000 gave them “premier league” access, and that “things will open up for you” if they donated that amount of money, Cruddas also explained, as the Guardian put it, “Two hundred grand to 250 is premier league … what you would get is, when we talk about your donations the first thing we want to do is get you at the Cameron/Osborne dinners. You do really pick up a lot of information and when you see the prime minister, you’re seeing David Cameron, not the prime minister. But within that room everything is confidential — you can ask him practically any question you want. If you’re unhappy about something, we will listen to you and put it into the policy committee at No 10 — we feed all feedback to the policy committee.” Read the rest of this entry »

As the House of Lords Passes the NHS Privatisation Bill, Labour Secures an Emergency Debate Tomorrow

Despite high hopes that members of the House of Lords would recognise their place in the history books on the side of the people, rather than on the side of David Cameron, Andrew Lansley, their Lib Dem stooges and the corporations who plan to make a killing out of the privatisation of the NHS, the Lords have voted by 328 votes to 213 to dismiss Lord Owen’s amendment, which, in a very reasonable manner, called for passage of the bill to be withheld pending the publication of the transition risk register, which a Freedom of Information tribunal ordered the government to release — for a second time — ten days ago. Not a single Lib Dem peer voted with Lord Owen, and just 27 out of 90 other crossbench peers supported him (see here for the analysis of votes).

The only good news is that, as the Guardian explained, the shadow health secretary Andy Burnham “has secured an additional Commons debate on the Health Bill for tomorrow afternoon on the issue of the NHS transition risk register.”

Announcing the approval of the emergency debate by the Speaker, John Bercow, Andy Burnham said:

Tomorrow’s debate will show the weight of feeling in the country. People care passionately about the NHS and they have a right to know the full implications of the Government’s proposed reorganisation. This Government is insulting Parliament by expecting it to support these plans whilst withholding information that could change the way MPs vote. Read the rest of this entry »

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, filmmaker, photographer and Guantanamo expert
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