Sunday, 15 February 2015

Labour faces incoming..

From the Times Red Box

The rules about people in glass houses or those without sin not throwing stones are an irrelevance in politics. Even when the charge of hypocrisy is levelled it is normally better to go on the attack and hope you can fire more ammunition more quickly than the other sinners and leave the other fellow's greenhouse a shattered wreck while your own precious panes remain intact.

Which is why Labour officials believe they have had a strategically important week with the row about tax avoidance by wealthy Tories. Miliband's team took some diversionary fire for comments about Millie Dowler and the leader himself saw his inheritance tax affairs trawled over, but all in all it was a good week for the opposition.

But as they survey the shattered glass of their own outhouse, the Tories will have more grounds for satisfaction this morning. There is a fresh volley of incoming fire for Labour who - surprise, surprise - have questions of their own to answer.

The Sunday Times splashes with the news that a property tycoon who is bankrolling the Labour party placed shares in an offshore trust that can be used to avoid tax. Lawyers for Sir David Garrard - who gave Labour £690,000 last year and has now promised to fund their battle against the SNP in Scotland - said he had done nothing wrong when shares in his property company, Minerva, were "settled on trusts for him and his late wife". 

But the Tories are accusing Labour of "breathtaking" double standards.

Miliband also faces criticism over a property company run by Labour that has paid no corporation tax for a decade. Labour Party Properties Limited has not paid corporation tax for more than 10 years despite raking in almost £10 million in rents.

  • The Sun on Sunday reveals that his business guru is an investor in a controversial tax avoidance scheme. Bill Thomas - now best known as "Bill Somebody" after Ed Balls forgot his name on Newsnight - who chaired Labour's small business taskforce, has been a member of a film investment arrangement that used a legal loophole since 2001.

  • The Sunday Telegraph says that the most senior business leader to back Ed Miliband, the green energy tycoon Dale Vince, has been accused of avoiding tax over a multimillion-pound company loan. 

  • My colleague James Lyons reveals that senior tax officials have shared bonuses of up to £250,000 since they were handed a leaked list of almost 7,000 HSBC clients with secret Swiss bank accounts.

Labour is expected to up the stakes by raising questions about the family trust of George Osborne, the chancellor, and the tax arrangements of Cameron's father-in-law, Lord Astor, whose estate on the Scottish island of Jura has been held in an offshore trust.

In the meantime the Tories face incoming fire from their own side. In the Observer Ken Clarke calls on his party to break its dependence on wealthy donors. He wants more public funding of politics, something most lobby journalists think would be preferable. Just as politicians will never convince voters this is a good idea, we'll never convince our newsdesks and editors.

Clarke said: "What happens is that the Conservatives attack the Labour party for being ever more dependent on rather unrepresentative left-wing trade union leaders, and the Labour party spends all its time attacking the Conservative party for being dependent on rather unrepresentative wealthy businessmen. And the media sends both up."

Amen to that.

  • Vince Cable, Digby Jones and Damian McBride, who has penned a piecefor the Mail will be discussing tax avoidance on Sky's Murnaghan show, from 10am.