What’s the story, Jackanory?

29 12 2007

John Laird seems to have gone off on another of his barely accurate and rarely coherent solo runs. So well done News Letter for handing over space to this ‘story’.

Staff at Bobballs have failed to locate it, but the NL reports that SDLP MP Mark Durkan has issued a statement calling for a tax on City bonuses. Fair enough.

Given that total annual City bonuses typically loiter around the £7bn-£9bn mark, this doesn’t seem completely unreasonable. And a socialist party member demanding higher taxation from the highest earners is hardly unusual.

Erm… no story here. But wait! Laird and the NL also say that Mark has signed a Commons EDM to the effect. ‘Cept he hasn’t.

[Why did the NL report otherwise? The staff reporter surely wouldn’t have just lazily taken John ‘Jackanory’ Laird’s word for it? The staff reporter must have been satisfied that public information supplied by Parliament was incorrect.]

So where’s this all going? The News Letter allows Laird space to make the following point:

I’m delighted that Mark Durkan has taken the unionist view of this activity because the Republic has been a particular tax haven for years.

I think it’s remarkable he has seen the light and has abandoned the nationalist stance on this and has joined the unionists in calling for more careful and assiduous tax collection in the UK.

Eh? If support for a windfall tax is intrinsically Unionist then surely one of NI’s Unionist 10 MPs would have bothered to sign up to the EDM. Apparently not. Has a Unionist stance now been abandoned?

And where did all this bollocks about fairness in the tax system come from? It wasn’t so long ago that the UUP were backing demands for a rates cap on properties attracting the highest capital valuation. This amounts to a tax cut, funded by everyone else, to a few hundred households in the wealthiest areas of Northern Ireland. Doesn’t get fairer than that!

Surely the NL piece was simply Laird out peacocking his anti-RoI prejudices by suggesting its tax system is fundamentally unfair. A little incongruous given that all the Unionist parties spent most of this year holding up the RoI tax system as so fundamentally fair as to demand harmony for NI with it. And if Laird was genuinely upset about tax havens, City bonuses or financial services, he ought to have been talking to the NL about the FSA, CBI or HM Customs & Revenue. And not, er, Mark Durkan.

But can anyone really hold up the UK as the home for fairness in taxation? Who would say that tax avoidance is a problem for the UK treasury?

It’s far beyond that. If you’re into hedge funds and private equity, surely our relaxed approach to taxation and bonuses etc is a selling point for the UK economy. Surely rolling back regulatory practises (er, the assiduous collection of taxes) ensures capital continues to flow through London… and, er, profits freely transfer to tax havens. Is this something that upsets you John? Yes? No?

Our excessively liberalised capital markets and anything-goes attitude to the super rich is not an effective rod with which to beat anyone. Or better that this be ignored by Parliamentarians who prefer to represent their own quasi-racist views as politics to daily newspapers that ought to know better.

Demands for windfall taxes are neither a betrayal of nationalism nor unqualified support for Unionism. And holidaying party press offices are no excuse to run random garbage on a politics page.

Or to put in another way – what is the point of the NL politics page? And what exactly is the point of John Laird?

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