It’s fair to say that this week won’t go down as a highpoint in Lord Snooty’s waning prime ministerial career. It wasn’t just that he was forced to appeal to Labour to get his gay marriage bill passed – an issue that has pushed the ongoing ‘ civil war in conservatism’ to open insurrection. Or Norman Tebbit warning of the threat of a Lesbian Queen (you at the back - stop sniggering now!) and the even more alarming possibility that he might marry his own son.
Nor was it Gerald Howard condemning the bill as another sign of the ‘aggressive homosexuality community.’ Such statements certainly add some substance to the notion of ‘swivel-eyed loons’ - regardless of the Prime Minister’s rather desperate insistence that it isn’t a notion that he shares.
All of that doesn’t help His Lordship’s increasingly tenuous position in a party where the lunatics are now roaming the asylum in their bed clothes, even if it is hugely enjoyable for those of us who can’t wait to see the back of him and his loathsome government.
But now, to add insult to injury, some of Britain’s leading multinationals have told Cameron to tone down his ‘rhetoric’ about ‘aggressive’ corporate tax evasion, on the eve of next month’s G8 Summit in Northern Ireland.
They include Burberry, Tesco, Vodafone, BAE Systems, GSK, Google, Marks and Spencers and BAE Systems (naturally), all of whom sent representatives to a meeting in London convened by Oxford University’s Said business school, where the head of CBI Sir Roger Carr, condemned the fact that:
‘ It is only in recent times that tax has become an issue on the public agenda – Starbucks, Google, Amazon – businesses that the general public know and believe they understand; businesses with a brand that become a perfect political football, the facts difficult to digest; public passions easy to inflame.’
Indeed they are – can’t think why, can you? Carr insisted that tax avoidance ‘cannot be about morality – there are no absolutes’. In these circumstances, any proposals for dealing with avoidance should avoiding the moral debate and concentrate on ‘fixing the rules on an international stage, not unilaterally’ through consultation with the companies themselves.
This is the same Sir Roger who praised the government only last week for ‘ lowering taxes, both corporate and personal; reducing regulation; supporting sectors, not picking winners; encouraging diversity and discouraging greed, by dialogue and debate – not legislation and diktat.’
In the same speech, Carr warned that next month’s Government Spending Review should not ringfence health, schools and international development funding in 2015/16 and become ‘a licence for inefficiency.’ He also declared that:
‘As a nation, I believe there is a growing recognition that we are entitled to nothing – that welfare cannot be provided without wealth creation and grudging acceptance that austerity at home and exports abroad must be the twin track solution to our problems.’
I don’t know about you, but that ‘recognition’ sounds a lot like a moral ‘absolute’ to me, and Carr’s insistence that ‘austerity’ must be inflicted on the population in the name of ‘financial rigour’ and ‘efficiency’ sounds like an order.
Now the head of CBI – and a man tipped to head Britain’s sleaziest corporation BAE Systems - is telling Lord Snooty to leave morality out of the equation when it comes to multinational ‘tax engineering’, and also that any attempts to impose restrictions on such practices should be carried out in consultation with …those same corporations!
All of which places His Lordship on the horns of a dilemma. If he continues to respond rhetorically to those irrational public ‘passions’ about corporate tax evasion, justice and unfairness or – God forbid – actually attempts to do something about them, he risks adding really powerful enemies to an already bulging list. If he doesn’t he just looks like a weak and powerless windbag.
You have to feel sorry for him – ok, maybe not too much. Because these are the choices that democratically-elected politicians are sometimes obliged to make in these days of endless crisis; cutbacks, poverty and ‘austerity’ for the majority and the ongoing destruction of the public sector on one hand – and total and unrestricted freedom for corporations to make as much money as possible, when, how, and where they like.
As Carr pointed out last week, Cameron has done pretty much everything that was expected of him. But at the same time the scale of tax evasion and fraud in the UK and beyond is so enormous and so glaring that even His Lordship’s government of millionaires have been obliged to at least talk about it.
Now the plutocracy has warned him to tone it down, and something tells me that he probably will.