Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Olympic standard hypocrisy

After the fuss about the Prime Minister's perfectly legal tax arrangements -  last week I had thought that British politics had reached a nadir of hypocrisy.

For people who are being accused of tax-dodging, both the PM and Chancellor appear to be paying an awful lot of tax, especially when compared against the leader of the opposition. In 2014/15

David Cameron paid £75,898 in tax on £200,307 of taxable income

George Osborne paid £72,210 in tax on £198,738 of taxable income

I gather this may not be the whole story as he appears to have accidentally missed off some of his income, but Jeremy Corbyn said he paid £18,912 in tax on his MP's salary and declared £1,850 of other taxable income.

Sounds to me like David and George paid a lot more tax than most of the people who accused them of tax dodging.

But for a good British scandal and fuss, forget money.

To quote Lord Macaulay:

I thought that "Hacked Off" was founded to protecting people from press intrusion. Now they are complaining because the press didn't print salacious details of the private life of an MP.

Confused? You're not the only one.

Three years ago an unmarried MP started going out with a woman of about the same age who lived nearby and who he had met online. At this stage he was not aware of what she did for a living.

I repeat, the MP was unmarried. He was not breaking marriage vows or cheating on anyone.

He then in February 2014 found out that the lady concerned was what is euphemistically known as a "sex worker" and ended the relationship.

The press knew about it but decided that there was no "public interest" reason to publish the story.,

Then, fifteen months AFTER the relationship ended the MP concerned became Secretary of State for the Media, Culture and Sport.

There was no obvious conflict of interest, and when it did finally become public knowledge within the past 48 hours the MP concerned, John Whittingdale, issued this statement:

“Between August 2013 and February 2014, I had a relationship with someone who I first met through She was a similar age and lived close to me. At no time did she give me any indication of of her real occupation and I only discovered this when I was made aware that someone was trying to sell a story about me to tabloid newspapers. As soon as I discovered, I ended the relationship.

This is an old story which was a bit embarrassing at the time. The events occurred long before I took up my present position and it has never had any influence on the decisions I have made as Culture Secretary.”

I am still unclear about how or why the tale did eventually get published but Guido Fawkes' blog has some interesting comments about whose fingerprints are on the story.

What is utterly bizarre is what happened next. Hacked Off suggested that there was a "conspiracy" because the press hadn't printed the story - in spite of the fact that this would have been exactly the sort of media intrusion they were supposedly founded to campaign against!

And Labour suggested that John Whittingdale should step aside from any decisions relating to the press because there might be some sort of "appearance" that the press might have had some sort of influence on him - when if ought to be completely obvious that any such influence would have terminated when the story did come out.

As Guardian journalist Roy Greenslade - not someone you would expect to be part of a "conspiracy" with Conservative politicians - pointed out allegations of a cover-up are wide of the mark. And as Ian Dunt argues at, their position on the  Whittingdale story has destroyed the last vestiges of Hacked Off's credibity.

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