The Michael Ashcroft story is truly extraordinary and there must be more to come. We all know that whoever wins the election will have to put up taxes and cut expenditure in order to bring the UK economy back into balance. The only questions are timing; how much comes from cuts and where they fall; and then how and on whom tax rises are levied.
A voter in Colney Heath asked me earlier this week what I was promising to her, and I said that in all honesty whoever wins will be asking for blood, sweat, toil and tears until we turn round the catastrophic state of the economy. We've just got to make sure that the pain is shared on the fairest possible basis. People need to know that we are all in it together. That especially means politicians, the people who helped create this mess.
The revelation by Lord Ashcroft, the largest Conservative donor, that he is a “non-dom” for tax purposes and so will largely not share the pain leaves a pretty sour taste in the mouth. The subsequent admission by William Hague that he knew about this for some months is truly breath-taking, since he and other Conservative front-benchers continued to spin the line that Lord Ashcroft had met all his tax obligations. As Lib Dem MP Chris Huhne has said, “Anyone who wants to pass laws in this country should pay this country’s full taxes and not hide behind the special offshore status of non-doms. Non-doms have to tell the taxman that their first allegiance is to another country. No-one should be a British lawmaker whose first allegiance is not to Britain. It is hard to know how much tax Lord Ashcroft has managed to dodge. But it clearly must be many millions of pounds over the ten year period given what we know about the extent of his wealth. This is the man who has poured money into Britain’s most marginal seats in a blatant attempt to buy votes. Banana republics and the Conservative Party seem to have a lot in common.