The Information Commissioner recently described the Conservatives as “evasive and obfuscatory” over Lord Ashcroft’s tax status, so it wasn’t surprising that shadow chancellor George Osborne and shadow communities secretary Eric Pickles sounded increasingly flustered this weekend as they tried to hold the line that Lord Ashcroft’s tax affairs are solely a matter for him.
The Tories have been very adept at positioning themselves on the side of the angels when it comes to party funding, MPs’ expenses and the broad issue of reforming the political system.
The reason for their growing discomfort on the issue of Lord Ashcroft is that continuing lack of clarity about his tax status fundamentally undermines their positioning on these issues.
So it is timely that a Facebook group has been set up calling for transparency on Lord Ashcroft’s tax status. However, the principle that all parliamentarians should be resident in the UK for tax purposes is universal and holds true for Labour and other politicians too.
So far the group has attracted nearly 1,000 members including Alastair Campbell; Labour MPs Gordon Prentice, Willie Bain, Greg Pope, Derek Wyatt, Andy Slaughter, Annette Brooke, David Wright, Paddy Tipping and Bridget Prentice; Liberal Democrat shadow home secretary Chris Huhne
Labour PPCs such as Daniel Zeichner (Cambridge), Luciana Berger (Liverpool Wavertree), Andy King (Rugby), Emily Benn (East Worthing and Shoreham), Jonathan Todd (Westmorland and Lonsdale) and Greg Lovell (Chippenham) and Jessica Asato of Progress have also signed.
The group has spawned a petition stating that the Conservative Party should reveal the tax status of Lord Ashcroft. More than 600 have signed in a week.
The Tories are vulnerable on this issue because it goes to the heart of voters’ doubts about the true agenda of David Cameron and his lieutenants. Scratch beneath the surface and there are rich seams (excuse the pun) which Labour can use to expose Tory hypocrisy on some of the most fundamental issues of our age.
So when voters hear George Osborne rushing to demand that the Government mimic President Obama’s banking clampdown, Labour politicians should be reminding voters just who it is that funds many of the back offices of leading Tories, including Osborne – multi-millionaire hedge fund managers and investment bankers, as the Financial Times revealed on Saturday.
• Join the Facebook group here
Our guest writer is John Slinger