Can you think of a five letter word beginning with a D and ending in a Y to describe the Prime Minister? Dainty, Dingy, Dumpy, …
The Speaker left us all guessing last week at Prime Minister’s Questions. He invited Dennis Skinner to withdraw the D word he had just thrown at Dave but didn’t want to repeat it himself. The Beast of Bolsover can be seen on You Tube leaving the chamber muttering D***y Dave over and over again. The term may well stick.
I felt sorry for David Cameron. In the shocking revelations from the Panama Papers, his financial affairs distracted attention from the real culprits. As so often, the cover up was worse than the offence as Downing Street issued a series of statements incrementally owning up to the extent of the affair.
I felt sympathy for Jeremy Corbyn. His hastily handwritten tax return was sent in late. We have all been there. His extra parliamentary income of £1850 was modest compared to Boris’s half million but will Corbyn’s endearing approach to finance give voters confidence?
Then it got out of hand. In defending his mother’s generous lifetime gifts which will not be taxed, David Cameron proclaimed the right of hard working parents to pass their money down to their children without paying inheritance tax.
I hope this was a heat of the moment remark and does not herald the government’s intention to abolish inheritance tax. It only applies to one in twenty estates and to well off families. Inheritance tax make us squirm but it is only fair that gifts of whatever kind should be taxed.
Back in the Commons, the Conservatives then accused Labour of wanting the House to be “stuffed full of low achievers” who had not earned a fortune and Labour retorted that you didn’t need to make a million to do well in life. The tribes took up their well known stances when the evidence suggests that we don’t really judge politicians on their wealth, morality or behaviour as opposed to whether they deliver the goods.
I suspect a lot of British voters rather like being governed by people who used to be called ‘gentlemen’ in much the same way as the French secretly admire a President who has an affair. It is almost de rigueur at the Champs Elysee.
Always one to spot a conspiracy, I was more worried by the Marquis de Whittingdale’s behaviour last week. It left him open to the accusation of being soft on the press and hard on the BBC to cover his own back. He may not previously have been the most flamboyant member of the Cabinet, but John Whittingdale needs to beyond reproach to handle the moguls of the media world.
( new piece)
For the last few months, I have been purposefully told at the chemist that it is time for my medication to be reviewed. So last month I caved in.
Through no fault of the pharmacist, the consultation was not a success. In hindsight, it may have been a mistake to say that I did not respect her company for moving its world headquarters to Zug, Switzerland in order to avoid paying tax.
The conversation became rather terse. “Do you take the pills?” the pharmacist asked. “Yes” I replied. “Do you have any side effects” the pharmacist asked. “What sort might I expect?”, I asked. “You tell me” she said.
I reviewed my minor aches and pains but could not attribute any of them to the sort of pills that a man of my age is offered at the NHS’s expense. “ None” I said. I was out of the door within five minutes thinking it had been a complete waste of time for both of us.
It turns out that I am not alone. In an excellent piece of investigatory journalism for The Guardian, Aditya Chakrabortty reports that pharmacists find that ‘medicine use reviews’ (MURs) are a burden imposed by their management. Professionally trained pharmacists are expected to work single handed against their code of practice, hand out make up vouchers, and meet a target of 400 MUR consultations a year.
Boots of Zug receives £28 from the NHS for each consultation. The NHS pays Boots of Zug £2bn a year which is about 40% of its UK income. According to a War on Want report, it has avoided paying £1bn in tax.
Boots of Nottingham was one of the most trusted brands on the high street. The company culture changed after it was purchased in 2007 by Monaco based, Italian billionaire Stefano Pessina, with funds from the Cayman Islands. He was one of a select group of British business leaders that David Cameron and George Osborne took to China in 2010 to promote British trade.
If NHS wants to save money, it could cut out MURs as far as I am concerned. If the government wants to tackle ruthless corporate practice, it should turn its attention to Stefano Pessina as much as to Mike Ashley. If it is serious about tax avoidance, it should head off to Zug. Any of the above would be better that haggling over politicans’ tax returns.
What five letter word beginning in B and ending Y might Dennis Skinner sling at Boots? Bonny, Barmy, Baddy?
published n Newcastle Journal 19th April