For the second time the Guardian and investigative newspapers across the World have brought into the public view a huge treasure trove of documents, the Pandora Papers, which relate to the way that the wealthy conceal their wealth from us and more importantly the taxman.
Many of the people named in the reports are politicians from around the World but many of them are in Britain. They’ve either found ways of dodging reasonable taxes themselves or have encouraged others to do so.
Top of the list, of course is the Tory Party. Its cronyism has really come to the fore during the pandemic as they have poured billions into crony donors with huge contracts ranging from £500,000 for ‘marketing’, to £15 million for an App that didn’t work to £33 billion for a ‘track and trace’ process which didn’t work and needed to be rescued by Public Health staff.
A Conservative party donor who helped fund Boris Johnson’s leadership campaign was involved in a major corruption scandal, according to an investigation into a trove of leaked financial documents.
Mohamed Amersi reportedly advised Swedish telecoms giant Telia on a £162m deal with the daughter of Uzbekistan’s former ruler Islam Karimov – a payment later described by the US authorities as a “bribe”. The Swedish company was later fined £700m by the US authorities over the deal and accepted that the money given to Gulnara Karimova was a “corrupt payment”.
Chancellor Sunak, has pledged that the UK tax authorities will review the biggest leak of offshore data in history. He told Sky News, “HMRC (HM Revenue & Customs) will look through those documents to see if there is anything we can learn.”
Sunak, who is thought to be the richest man in the UK cabinet, insisted he has not benefited from any offshore tax arrangements. We’ll see what he does and whether he really cares. These abuses have been known about for years. They are only being acted upon now because of brilliant investigative journalism which has put the issues back on the agenda.
But it’s not only Tories benefitting from lax tax laws. Tony and Cherie Blair saved hundreds of thousands of pounds in property taxes when acquiring a London office building from an offshore company partially owned by a prominent Bahraini minister.
The former British prime minister and his wife became the owners of a £6.5m office building in 2017 by acquiring a British Virgin Islands (BVI) company controlled by the family of HE Zayed bin Rashid Alzayani, the constitutional monarchy’s current minister for industry, commerce and tourism.
The problem with this drip, drip, drip of bad news is that it gives people the opportunity to say, “you politicians are all the same. You’re all in for what you can get”. I want to tell you that is not the case even in Parliament. I mean, be honest, who would choose to become a Lib Dem MP because of the riches it might bring them!? Many MPs do go out of their way to serve their community. For every self-seeking bastard who sees Parliament as a place for advancement there is another who is there to serve.
You might question the competence and intelligence of some. You mightn’t like their policies but that is for the people of their constituency to decide. But their motives are pure and unquestionable
Outside national politics our councils are led by people on principal councils and town and parish councils who give unstintingly of their time because they love their community and believe that they can help that community by acting as a Councillor. As I look around Liverpool Council, I see a very great mix of competence and commitment.
For some the £10.5 k all backbench councillors get is a useful addition to their pension or wage. Yes, some are rarely seen in their wards outside election time especially in wards considered to be ‘safe’. For every one of those there are two across the Parties who are out night after night and weekend after weekend serving the people of their area; dealing with casework, looking at policies and programmes and trying to find ways that the Council can progress both individual and societal needs.
As part of the review of the number of councillors that the City needs we were all asked to complete a survey of the time we spend on council, ward and party business. The hours that many councillors work are truly heroic. There are very few councillors who earn anything like the minimum wage for what they do. We do it without complaint because we want to serve. We need some income because we too have bills to pay but often, we give up greater income because of our love of our area, our community and our City.
So, if you are one of those people who think we are all it let me advise you that it is incredibly easy to take us on. You need 10 signatures on a nomination paper. You need a few pounds for some leaflets, which in the Lib Dems case is not provided by a rich Party but comes from our own pockets; and you need to go out and talk to people and persuade them that you will be better than the people who currently sit in the Council Chamber.
That’s what my colleagues and I will be doing in the run up to the 2023 elections. We think our ideas and our people are better than Labours (no other ‘party’ matters in Liverpool) so we’ll go out and try and win more sits. That is what democracy is about listening to; talking to; and trying to persuade people to vote for.
If you are an armchair groucher stop whingeing and start doing something if you really think that those of us who are elected already are that bad.