by Rob Marchant
This week’s revelations about Ken Livingstone’s tax affairs are not shocking. They are not even very surprising. But they are important in another sense: in the direct contradiction they highlight between word and deed.
Now, as many readers of Labour Uncut will know, its contributors are not generally renowned as class warriors. But, as a politician, it is simply staggeringly unwise to show yourself in the light that Livingstone has just done. As Nick Cohen notes in the Observer:
“Livingstone…is now the champion of the suffering 99% and enemy of the despised 1%. “Cameron’s problem is too many of his team have become super-rich by exploiting every tax fiddle,” he cried. ‘No one should be allowed to vote in a British election, let alone sit in our parliament, unless they are paying their full share of tax.’ He was talking about himself.'”
Let’s be clear: tax avoidance is not tax evasion. It is not illegal. Some people may even call it smart financial management. But don’t tell everyone it is morally reprehensible and then do it yourself. It’s not the tax avoidance itself, it’s the hypocrisy that will kill you, because people will cease to believe that you do not simply think that it’s one rule for you and another for everyone else. Or that you tell one thing to one person, and another to another
Livingstone’s 1999 failure to be endorsed by Labour’s NEC as its mayoral candidate was, frankly, badly handled. Unlike other countries where regional devolution has a long history, Labour was too green to realise that there are limits to how much you can get a regional politician to toe the party line. They have their own electoral base and can merely pay lip-service to the party, while doing just as they like. As Ken duly did, and as Boris is now doing. Fair enough.