The Curmudgeon


Monday, September 27, 2010

Lord Ashcroft Thinks of the Children

The leader of the Conservative Party, Lord Ashcroft, has demonstrated the business ethic behind the rhetoric on family values which is so beloved of right-wingers from Thatcher through her acolyte Blair to Blair's copycat Daveybloke: he has used his children as a tax dodge. So as to leave us in no doubt as to his respect for the country he tried to buy a few months ago, Ashcroft transferred ownership of his main British company one day before the passing of legislation requiring all members of both the House of Donors and the House of Expenses Claimants to be registered in the UK for tax purposes. Had he waited, the inheritance tax would have been something over three million pounds: enough to help a hospital or two perhaps, if the Chopper Coalition had any interest in that sort of thing; or possibly to put up some school buildings, assuming (charitably) that three million pounds is a large enough sum for Michael Gove to avoid leaving in a taxi or feeding to Danny Alexander or one of the other little yellow hamsters scuttling about Whitehall these days.

These, at least, are the allegations of a BBC Panorama documentary, which "senior Conservatives are understood" to have ordered the BBC not to broadcast during the run-up to the general election. Naturally, the director general and the BBC Trust displayed their usual combination of investigative zeal and spinal fortitude, and caved in. Nevertheless, a spokesbeing for Ashcroft said that the BBC had made "a fundamental error", aside from its ongoing blunder of not being owned by people like Lord Ashcroft. The Panorama programme does in fact claim that the tax dodge was legal and broke no rules; and Ashcroft is apparently polishing up his knuckle-dusters to clarify matters tomorrow.

Update Well, well. According to the BBC, Lord Ashcroft, who has nothing to hide, was asked about his alleged share transfer two weeks ago and requested to respond by 24 September. His lawyers were so busy having nothing to hide that they responded a moment or two before the programme was due to go out, and the BBC duly pulled it from the schedule a second time. The shares which were transferred apparently represented an "indirect interest"; presumably they were a gift to Lord Ashcroft's children made by a total stranger without Lord Ashcroft's knowledge or consent, and certainly they can have had nothing to do with the tax affairs of which he has been so innocent all this time. Naturally, Lord Ashcroft is more saddened than angry that the BBC has wasted time and public money waiting for answers from the owner of a political party which has some small interest, if only an indirect one, in appearing to be democratically accountable. Lord Ashcroft regretted the "demise of journalistic standards" at the BBC, which certainly would not have taken place if the BBC, like the Sun, the Mail and the Murdoch Times, were owned by someone like Lord Ashcroft instead of by a lot of greasy little taxpayers.


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