Monday, March 01, 2010

Just A Bag

The cat is out of the bag, well, there never really was a cat was there was just an empty sack and the biggest non-secret in politics that Lord Ashcroft is a non-dom has made the news today and surprised nobody.  His statement today clarifies his tax position, and presumably he then took questions about bears defecating in the woods and the true political allegiance of the Pope.


“I am making this statement in advance of the release by the Cabinet Office of limited information about the award of my peerage and of the undertakings I gave at the time. While I value my privacy, I do not want my affairs to distract from the general election campaign.

“I have therefore decided to release a copy of the letter which I wrote to William Hague, and to expand on what actually happened. As the letter shows, the undertakings I gave were confirmed in a memorandum to William Hague dated 23rd March 2000. These were to “take up permanent residence in the UK again” by the end of that year. The other commitment in the memorandum was to resign as Belize’s permanent representative to the UN, which I did a week later.

“In subsequent dialogue with the Government, it was officially confirmed that the interpretation in the first undertaking of the words “permanent residence” was to be that of “a long term resident” of the UK. I agreed to this and finally took up my seat in the House of Lords in October 2000. Throughout the last ten years, I have been declaring all my UK income to HM Revenue.

“My precise tax status therefore is that of a “non-dom”. Two of Labour’s biggest donors – Lord Paul (recently made a privy councillor by the Prime Minister) and Sir Ronald Cohen, both long-term residents of the UK, are also “non-doms”.

As for the future, while the non-dom status will continue for many people in business or public life, David Cameron has said that anyone sitting in the legislature – Lords or Commons – must be treated as resident and domiciled in the UK for tax purposes. I agree with this change and expect to be sitting in the House of Lords for many years to come.”

Lord Ashcroft mentions Lord Paul and Sir Ronald Cohen both of whom are Labour donors and Non-Dom's.  Iain Dale was very quick to make available a more extensive list.

Lord Paul – £69,250 in donations to Labour, including £45,000 to Gordon Brown’s leadership campaign. A close friend of Gordon Brown and appointed to the Privy Council last summer, he has admitted to being ‘non-dom’.
• Lakshmi Mittal - £4.125 million in donations to Labour.
• Sir Ronald Cohen - £2.55 million in donations to Labour. Cohen was appointed chair of the Social Investment Taskforce, which was announced by the then Chancellor, Gordon Brown
• Sir Christopher Ondaatje - £1.7 million in donations to Labour.
• Sir Gulam Noon - £532,826 in donations to Labour.
• William Bollinger - £510,725 in donations to Labour.
• Mahmoud Khayami - £985,000 in donations to Labour including £5,000 to Hazel Blears’ deputy leadership campaign. He has helped bankroll two flagship schools, one of which Gordon Brown opened, and was personally thanked for a donation by Tony Blair.
• Dr David Potter - £90,000 in a donation to Labour. He has previously delivered a lecture at Downing Street.
So, basically both parties are upto the same thing, whilst painting a picture that the other is doing something wrong or immoral.  There would appear to be no breaches in the rules or the laws on donations.  It does however seem that whilst Labour have been bleating on about Lord Ashcroft they have been unwilling to put forth any recommendations for rule changes; probably because they clearly have more to lose than the Conservatives from any changes in the rules.

It does not change the fact that the two parties are screaming at each other for doing exactly the same thing as each other for what basically boils down to nothing at all.  It really is time for Gordon Brown or David Cameron to get out in front of the pettiness and to start putting the country first.  My suspicions has long been that in a Post-Lisbon world, the Governing party has become so restricted in what it may and may not do, that elections have become about who has the blacker cat. 

Away from Westminster, we just don't care.

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