Politics Summary: Tuesday, March 2nd

Lord Aschcroft's "£127m in unpaid taxes", Radovan Karadzic's war crimes trial at The Hague, climategate and more.

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Left Foot Forward readers have voted for the introduction of a living wage as their top progressive manifesto idea in our online survey. The living wage received the support of 35% of readers, fractionally higher than the idea of a green new deal. The top two were followed by a financial transaction tax – similar to the “Robin Hood” tax – cracking down on tax havens and tax avoidance, and the nationalisation of the rail and water industries. James Purnell, a huge supporter of the living wage policy, told us: “I’m delighted that Left Foot Forward readers are backing the Living Wage. No one who works hard should end up poor in a society as rich as ours. But this isn’t just an economic policy. It’s also about making sure parents earn enough so that they can spend time with their families, or that citizens earn enough so they can take part in their local community life. I’ve been hugely impressed by London Citizens’ campaign for the Living Wage, and now trust the government will look at supporting it in the manifesto.”

The pressure over the missing millions Lord Ashcroft saved in tax dominates todays papers, the Mirror calling it the “Lord Ashcroft tax scandal: The unpaid £127million”. The Tory peer, calculates the paper, “deprived the public of more than £127million in a 10-year-long tax dodge” – prompting Lib Dem frontbencher Chris Huhne to say: “He’s avoided vast sums in a non-dom tax dodge.” The report adds: “Lord Ashcroft’s fortune is estimated to be £1,100million, which would earn him at least £55million in income … Lord Ashcroft’s fortune is estimated at £1,100 million by the Sunday Times Rich List. A 5% annual return is £55m. If he kept 80% offshore taxpayers would miss income from £44m. He can split his tax between capital gains and income tax. At 18%, capital gains tax on £22m = £3.96m, plus 40% income tax on £22m = £8.8m. That’s £12.76m a year or £127.6m in 10 years.” The Mirror also details the “Eleven years of Tory squirming” and evasiveness over the issue. The Independent describes it as “A saga that reflects badly on the Tories”, The Guardian says the Tories “refuse to answer accusations that party chairman breached tax promises”, and The Times says Ashcroft “struck a private deal ten years ago to save himself tax”.

The Guardian has a report on the opening of Radovan Karadzic’s defence at his war crimes trial in The Hague. Accused of the worst crimes in Europe “since the Nazis”, the former Bosnian Serb leader “painted himself as a misunderstood and much-maligned anti-communist dissident”, says the report. Quite staggeringly, he insisted: “They’re trying to convict us for something we never did … There should have been no indictment against me in the first place … There is no Serb responsibility.” Yet, in an earlier speech to Serb forces, he had said – and the court heard – that his forces would turn Sarajevo into “a black cauldron where 300,000 Muslims will die. They will disappear. That people will disappear from the face of the Earth.” Tomorrow, his victims have their say, those who survived the terrors of the Bosnian camps.

The Independent reports on the appearance before Parliament’s Science and Technology committee of Professor Phil Jones, the researcher at the heart of the “climategate” email controversy. Professor Jones told MPs Tthat in July last year the Climate Research Unit was “deluged” with 61 Freedom of Information requests from climate sceptics – after there had only been two or three in the previous year. Talking about the most controversial of the leaked emails, in which he talks about “a trick” to “hide the decline”, he defended himself by saying it referred to “altering a graph showing that temperature recorded by tree-ring growth after 1960 no longer followed the instrumental record closely, as it once had done”. The Guardian reports Jones’s admission that he had sent out the “awful emails”, though he was adamant that “there is nothing that [shows] that me or the CRU were trying to pervert the peer review process in any way”. Yesterday Left Foot Forward laid out five questions for climate sceptics Lord Lawson and Benny Peiser, who were also called up to give evidence.

And the Financial Times reports Lord Mandelson’s call for a “radical tightening of takeover rules” to help companies fend off hostile bids driven by “the lure of the fast buck”. His proposals, in a speech last night to the Mansion House, come in the wake of Kraft’s £11.7bn takeover of Cadbury. Mandelson said reforms were needed to reassert the “values of the long-term or organic growth and value creation over the temptations of excessive leverage and the fast buck”. However, shadow business secretary Ken Clarke called Mandelson “a master of guile” and warned “he isn’t really going to change anything”.

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